Homing beacon drugs can kill cancer cells

Published on November 22, 2012 at 3:30 AM · No Comments

A medical researcher with the University of Alberta and his team just published their findings about their work on developing 'homing beacon drugs' that kill only cancer cells, not healthy ones, thanks to nano-technology.

John Lewis, the Frank and Carla Sojonky Chair in Prostate Cancer Research with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, published his findings in the peer-reviewed journal, Nano Letters. He is also an associate professor in the Department of Oncology, a Fellow with the National Institute for Nanotechnology at the U of A and director of the Translational Prostate Cancer Research Group.

Lewis noted chemotherapy goes through the body and kills any cells that are dividing, even healthy ones - which is why cancer patients have immune system problems, hair loss, nausea and skin problems.

"We are developing smart drugs that determine which are the cancer cells and which aren't, then selectively kill only the cancer cells. The drugs look for a protein that is only found in cancer cells, not normal cells. This system acts like a homing beacon for tumours."

These drugs, tested to date in only animal lab models, could be used within a week of cancer diagnoses, predicts Lewis. The drugs would target cancerous cells throughout the body - attacking sneaky cancer cells that have already escaped and grown outside the site of the main tumour.

Lewis wasn't sure when these homing beacon drugs could be available for physicians to use with patients, but hopes his works paves the way for patient-centered therapies.

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