A team of scientists from the Skoltech Center for Energy Science and Technology, the Institute for Problems of Chemical Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the National Taiwan University have discovered that fullerene compounds can effectively kill non-small-cell lung carcinoma cells and found out the mechanisms behind their anti-tumor activity.
Lung cancer is one of the most frequently experienced and severe forms of cancer. Every year more than a million of new cases are reported all over the world and 60% of them are fatal.
About 85% of all the lung cancer cases are non-small-cell lung carcinoma cases. This tumor type is difficult to treat because of aggressive metastasis (spreading into other organs and tissues), frequent relapses (recurrence of the disease) and resistance to the standard anti-tumor drugs.
The existing chemotherapeutic drugs, cytostatic agents, suppress cancer cells development causing them to die, but at the same time, they are highly toxic for healthy cells which can lead to serious side effects.
A fullerene is a special form of carbon with molecules consisting of 60 carbon atoms, which look like a soccer ball. To make fullerenes soluble in water and biological media, polar functional groups are chemically attached to their surfaces.
A group of scientists from Skoltech headed by Professor P. A. Troshin in collaboration with a team from the National Taiwan University have found out that some of the fullerene compounds are toxic for non-small cell lung carcinoma cells and cause their death. At the same time, they are practically non-toxic for healthy cells, which was shown both in cell models and in animal studies.
“The mechanisms leading to cancer cells death under the influence of fullerene derivatives have been unknown until recently. Our Taiwanese colleagues, while studying our compounds, succeeded in discovering that at least two mechanisms are involved: apoptosis and autophagy. It is interesting to know that it is the nature of the polar groups attached to the fullerene molecule that launches one or other mechanism in each particular case,” says Olga Kraevaya, Skoltech PhD student, co-author.
The anti-tumor activity of the fullerene derivatives has a great potential for the development of new effective medicinal products for treatment of non-small-cell lung carcinoma.
The research results were published in Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
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