Scientists at the University of the Algarve’s department for biomedical sciences and medicine have discovered a compound that “could help create a drug that would be an alternative to chemotherapy”.
Lusa news agency reports the news today, adding that the “new chemical compound” could also be used to combat the ageing process.
Assistant professor Wolfgang Link explained that it “works especially” well in breast and prostate cancers. Its magic is that it activates a ‘missing’ protein needed to keep cells healthy… and young.
Up to 500 different compounds were tested until researchers hit ‘pay dirt’, but there is still a way to go before the discovery can leave the laboratory.
“Our objective is to kill carcinogenic cells and free ourselves of them without damaging normal cells”, Link explained. But while the discovery promises to be less toxic than chemotherapy, it is still not clear what its action might be on normal healthy cells.
The next steps however depend on Link and his team, including Portuguese Bibiana Ferreira and Susana Machado, getting finance, says DN.
“In the long term, it is a door that has opened for treatment”, he said.
Full details on the discovery are due to appear in Nature magazine in the New Year, and are out now in open access online resource Plos One, under the title: Discovery of a novel, specific isothiazolonaphthoquinone-based small molecule.