Bright Future for Platinum-Based Cancer Treatments

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"Powerful cancer treatment uses a platinum-based drug."

A team of EU-funded scientists has come up with a potentially powerful cancer treatment that uses blue light to activate a platinum-based drug. As well as being more potent than other platinum-based medicines, the light-activated treatment could allow doctors to kill cancer cells in a more targeted way. The findings, by researchers in the UK, are published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

EU support for the work came from the PHOTORUACD ('Novel photodissociable ruthenium-based anticancer drugs') project, a EUR 178,000 Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship from the People Programme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

The precious metal platinum is already widely used in cancer treatments, for example in the drugs cisplatin, carboplatin and oxaliplatin. Activating a platinum-based drug with light ('photoactivation') would enable clinicians to selectively activate the drug within tumours. This would reduce damage to surrounding healthy tissue, avoid side effects and possibly extend the application of platinum drugs to cancer cells that have become drug resistant as well as to other cancer types.

Scientists at the University of Warwick have already succeeded in creating a platinum complex that is activated by ultraviolet A (UVA) light. However, this narrow wavelength would limit its use in the clinic, according to the researchers. In this latest study, the Warwick team, together with colleagues from Ninewells Hospital in Dundee and the University of Edinburgh, describe a novel platinum compound that is activated by low doses of visible blue or green light.

Furthermore, the complex, whose full name is trans,trans,trans-[Pt(N3)2(OH)2(py)2], is stable, easy to work with and water soluble, meaning it can dissolve and be flushed out of the body once used. 

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