Korean researchers have developed a new anticancer compound that selects only cancer cells and starves them to death. The compound does not affect normal cells so it can reduce the negative side effects of current anticancer drugs.
A research team led by Shim Tae-bo, director of the Center for Chemical Kinetics at the Korean Institute for Science and Technology (KIST), announced on Nov. 5 that they discovered a new anti-cancer substance that hampers the growth of lung cancer cells by disturbing their energy generation.
Tumor cells grow and divide rapidly. Unlike normal cells, tumor cells prefer to produce energy through the fermentation of lactic acid. They do not send pyruvate, a metabolite of sugar, to mitochondria, but instead convert it into lactate to produce energy. This is one of the major differences between cancer cells and normal cells. By using this point, a drug can selectively attack cancer cells without affecting normal cells.
The KIST researchers have discovered a new compound that inhibits the activities of pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase (PDHK), which is an enzyme that contributes to inducing the fermentation of lactic acid. PDHK promotes the fermentation of lactic acid by preventing pyruvate from entering mitochondria. This enzyme is created in a variety of cancers such as gastric cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, so the hindrance of the enzyme’s activities can go against the growth of cancer cells that produce energy through the fermentation of lactic acid.
The KIST researchers found out a new compound that strongly inhibits PDHK only among numerous enzymes. They confirmed that the compound is more effective in inhibiting the growth of lung and prostate cancer cells and killing them than other PDHK inhibitors and exerts anticancer effects by inhibiting the functions of mitochondria in cancer cells and changing energy production methods.
This study was published in the latest issue of the international journal Medical Chemistry.