11 September 2020

Plastic instead of chemotherapy

New therapy kills any cancer cells in four hours

Svetlana Maslova, Hi-tech+

Scientists from Germany have created a completely new way of treating cancer – it is aimed at destroying the structure of malignant cells in order to start the process of their self-destruction. The first preclinical results showed promising prospects for future therapy – different cultures of cancer cells were destroyed in an average of 4 hours. At the same time, the therapy is absolutely harmless to healthy cells.

Scientists from The Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research has developed a molecular "lego brick" that can get inside both healthy and malignant cells through a special nozzle. By itself, it is harmless, but the unique features of cancer cells trigger the chemical reactions necessary to fight the disease.

The intercellular environment of the tumor is more acidic, and there are much more highly reactive oxidative molecules in the cells themselves due to the increased metabolic activity of cancer. It is these features that scientists have used to attack cancer cells.

In order for the treatment to start, it is necessary that both conditions are met, the authors explain.

As a result, the individual "cubes" are connected to each other inside the cell and form a large network. Growing, it remains very stable and soon deforms the cells from the inside.


Figure from the press release of Max Planck Institute of Polymer Research The web of death – VM.

The destruction of the cell structure causes it to start the process of self–destruction - this is how the main goal of treatment is achieved. "We attack cancer cells in such a way that they cannot defend themselves," the researchers explain.

Experiments on cancer cell cultures have shown that after exposure to a new drug begins, they die within a very short time – on average within four hours.

Now the team is working on improving the accuracy of the deformation process. In the future, in their opinion, therapy can become an effective alternative to chemotherapy, which indiscriminately kills both cancer and healthy cells.

Article by Pieszka et al. Controlled Supramolecular Assembly Inside Living Cells by Sequential Multistaged Chemical Reactions published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society – VM.

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