Killing Cancer Cells with a Trojan Horse Strategy

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Really fascinating talk by Johns Hopkins University researcher Peter L. Pedersen, PhD. Dr. Pedersen’s lab is studyiTrojanHorseng a compound that disrupts cancer cells’ mitochondria, the energy-producing part of the cell. If cancer cells can’t produce energy – they die. But disrupting the mitochondria in cancer cells is challenging: there are two sources of energy in cancer cells – only one in healthy cells – and the trick is to target only the cancer cells, not the healthy one, said Dr. Pedersen.

Dr. Pedersen presented his lab’s findings on a compound called 3-BrPA for short, which appears to stop liver cancer cells from producing energy. 3-BrPA sneaks into a cancer cells’ mitochondria using the Trojan Horse strategy. It’s structurally similar to another compound (lactic acid) found in high amounts in cancer cells. The cancer cells mistakes 3-BrPA for lactic acid and transports it inside. There, 3-BrPA gets in the way of the two pathways in energy production.

In animal studies, Dr. Pedersen’s lab has had promising results. For example, out of 33 animals with advanced liver cancer: the tumors of the 19 animals treated with 3-BrPA all went away within 1 to 4 weeks; the tumors in the untreated animals continued to grow.

While exciting, right now this research is still only in the laboratory phase.

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