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Published: 2023-05-16 Updated: 2023-10-03, 08:13

Effective and gentler cancer treatment

NEWS Researchers in Umeå, France and South Korea have discovered a new and effective compound for the treatment of cancer. In addition to the fact that the compound’s toxicity is minimal to healthy tissues, the compound is highly effective at very low concentrations, and is also simpler and cheaper to produce than those currently on the market.

Text: Claes Björnberg

The compound is intended to be used in so-called photodynamic therapy. This means that the area to be treated is first photosensitized (made more sensitive to light) with a locally or intravenously given substance, hopefully in the future the newly discovered compound.

The relevant area is then activated by illumination with a light source with a controlled amount of energy and defined wavelength. This can be done with specific optical fibers or in special light rooms. Activation of the compound in cancer cells leads to chemical reactions that result in cancer cell death.

"Very promising results"

Nine researchers from three departments at Umeå University are part of the group that made the discovery.

– The discovery is the result of around three years of work. It has been an extensive project with an incredible number of different experiments within different research disciplines. Of course, it feels exciting that we got very promising results, says Nasim Sabouri, senior lecturer at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics.

The researchers have begun work on patents and commercialization, with help from Umeå University Holding and Umeå Biotech Incubator AB.

Minimize side effects

The researchers have shown that the newly discovered compound is fluorescent (re-emits light), which makes it easier to localize its position in the cell. It has made it possible to show that the compound binds to certain DNA structures in the cell, which has not been demonstrated for any previous photosensitizing compound.

This could possibly be the key to this compound being extremely effective at low concentrations and could in the future minimize the side effects on the patient's healthy tissues. The effectiveness has not only been verified through experiments in test tubes, but also in cancer cells and tumor models as well as in zebrafish.

The work has been published in the reputable journal Nucleic Acids Research. The first author of the article, Marco Deiana, postdoctoral fellow at the department of Medical Biochemistry and biophysics was recruited to Umeå University thanks to Excellence By Choice (EC) Postdoctoral Program, and was also rewarded a postdoctoral fellowship from the Swedish Cancer Society. Further studies are underway to confirm the feasibility of extending these findings to future clinical applications.

The published article: A new G-quadruplex-specific photosensitizer inducing genome instability in cancer cells by triggering oxidative DNA damage and impeding replication fork progression.

Authors: Marco Deiana, José María Andrès Castán, Pierre Josse, Abraha Kahsay, Darío Puchán Sánchez, Korentin Morice, Natacha Gillet, Ranjitha Ravindranath, Ankit Kumar Patel, Pallabi Sengupta, Ikenna Obi, Eva Rodriguez Marquez, Lhoussain Khrouz, Elise Dumont, Laura Abad Galán, Magali Allain, Bright Walker, Hyun S. Ahn, Olivier Maury, Philippe Blanchard, Tangui le Bahers, Daniel Öhlund, Jonas von Hofsten, Cyrille Monnereau, Clément Cabanetos, Nasim Sabouri

Nasim Sabouri Lab

Picture of arrow board: Clement Cabanetos