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Researchers from the Universities of Warwick, Edinburgh, Dundee and the
Czech Republic’s Institute of Biophysics have discovered a new
light-activated platinum-based compound that is up to 80 times more
powerful than other platinum-based anti-cancer drugs and which can use
"light activation" to kill cancer cells in much more targeted way than
The platinum-based compound known as "trans, trans, trans-
[Pt(N3)2(OH)2(NH3)(py)]", or a light activated PtIV complex, is highly
stable and non-toxic if left in the dark but if light falls upon it
becomes much less stable and highly toxic to cancer cells. In fact it
is between 13 and 80 times more toxic (depending on how and on which
cells it is used) to cancer cells than the current platinum based
anti-cancer drug Cisplatin. Moreover it kills the cells by a different
mechanism of action, so it can also kill cisplatin-resistant cells.
Professor Peter Sadler, Chairman of the Chemistry Department of the
University of Warwick, who led the research project said: "Light
activation provides its massive toxic power and also allows treatment
to be targeted much more accurately against cancer cells."
The compound could be used in particular to treat surface cancers.
Patients could be treated in a darkened environment with light directed
specifically at cancer cells containing the compound activating the
compound’s toxicity and killing those cells. Normal cells exposed to
the compound would be protected by keeping the patient in darkness
until the compound has passed through and out of the patient.
The new light activated PtIV complex is also more efficient in its
toxic action on cancer cells in that, unlike other compounds currently
used in photodynamic therapy, it does not require the presence of
significant amounts of oxygen within a cancer cell to become toxic.
Cancer cells tend to have less oxygen present than normal cells.
Although this work is in its early stages, the researches are
hopeful that, in a few years time, the new platinum compound could be
used in a new type of photoactivated chemotherapy for cancer.
Journal: The research has just been published in PNAS (The
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, under the title "A
potent cytotoxic photoactivated platinum complex". The authors are –
Project leader Professor Peter Sadler, (University of Warwick) and Ana
M. Pizarro (University of Warwick); Fiona S. Mackay, Stephen A.
Moggach, Simon Parsons (University of Edinburgh), Julie A. Woods
(University of Dundee), Pavla Heringová, Jana Kašpárková, and Viktor
Brabec (Institute of Biophysics, Academy of Sciences of the Czech
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