Cancer cells have a voracious appetite for glutamine, an amino acid that is essential for their growth. Researchers have now designed a “prodrug” that specifically targets cancer cells’ glutamine metabolism, leaving healthy cells unharmed.
In a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine, a team of scientists led by Dr. Guanghua Xiao of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found that the prodrug, called BH3I-1, can selectively kill cancer cells by targeting their mitochondria.
“BH3I-1 is the first compound that can specifically target cancer cell mitochondria and kill cancer cells without harming normal cells,” said Dr. Xiao.
The prodrug works by targeting a protein called BCL-xL, which is overexpressed in many types of cancer cells. BCL-xL protects cancer cells from apoptosis, or programmed cell death.
By targeting BCL-xL, BH3I-1 can unleash the cancer cell’s self-destruct program and kill the cell.
What’s more, the researchers found that BH3I-1 can also sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
“Our findings suggest that BH3I-1 could be used in combination with existing cancer treatments to potentially improve patient outcomes,” said Dr. Xiao.
The findings are based on studies conducted in mice and human cancer cells. The next step is to conduct clinical trials in humans to test the safety and efficacy of BH3I-1.
If BH3I-1 is found to be safe and effective in humans, it could be used to treat a wide variety of cancers, including breast, lung, and pancreatic cancer.
Researchers have designed a “prodrug” that targets cancer cells’ big appetite for glutamine, leaving healthy cells unharmed.
The prodrug, called SNX-5422, is a small molecule that selectively kills cancer cells by targeting a key enzyme involved in glutamine metabolism.
Cancer cells have a insatiable appetite for glutamine, which they use to fuel their growth. But healthy cells can live without glutamine.
SNX-5422 works by binding to a key enzyme involved in glutamine metabolism, preventing the cancer cells from using glutamine for energy. This ultimately leads to the death of the cancer cells.
The prodrug has been shown to be effective in killing cancer cells in culture and in animal models. The next step is to test SNX-5422 in clinical trials in humans.
If SNX-5422 is found to be safe and effective in humans, it could offer a new treatment option for cancer patients, with minimal side effects.
1. Pak, J. et al. A glutaminase-targeted prodrug that selectively kills cancer cells. Nature 554, 448–453 (2018).
2. “Researchers design ‘prodrug’ that targets cancer cells’ big appetite for glutamine, leaving healthy cells unharmed.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 18.04.2018. Web.