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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed May 22 16:42:03 EDT 2013

Overcoming resistance to anti-cancer drugs by targeting cell 'powerhouses'

Re-routing anti-cancer drugs to the “power plants” that make energy to keep cells alive is a promising but long-neglected approach to preventing emergence of the drug-resistant forms of cancer — source of a serious medical problem, scientists are reporting. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the journal ACS Chemical Biology

Shana Kelley and colleagues explain that doxorubicin and other common forms of chemotherapy work by damaging the genes inside the nucleus of cancer cells. Cancer cells divide and multiply faster than surrounding normal cells, making copies of their genes. The drugs disrupt that process. But cancer cells eventually adapt, developing structures that pump out nucleus-attacking drugs before they can work. Kelley’s team explored the effects of targeting doxorubicin to the mitochondria, the energy-producing structures in cells that also contain genes.

They describe a re-targeting approach that involved mating doxorubicin with a small piece of protein that made the drug travel to mitochondria instead of the nucleus. The combo killed cancer cells, even those that had developed pumps. Such an approach could work with a whole family of anti-cancer drugs that target the nucleus, the scientists indicate.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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mitochondria illustration
Targeting anti-cancer drugs to mitochondria —
the “power plants” in cells — is a promising but
overlooked approach to preventing emergence of
drug-resistant forms of cancer.