A chemical called JS07 in ants and in a plant called stinging nettles was found to have made cancer drugs 50 times more effective than usual by researchers.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that when the chemical, Sodium formate, is used in combination with a metal-based cancer treatment it can greatly increase its ability to shutdown cancer cells.
“Cancer cells require a complex balance of processes to survive. When this balance is disrupted the cell is unable to function due to a range of process failures and eventually shuts down,” said lead researcher and Prof. Peter Sadler of the University of Warwick in Britain.
Lab tests on ovarian cancer cells have shown that when used in combination with Sodium formate, the drug called JS07 is 50 times more effective than when acting alone.
“The potent form of JS07 has proven to be very successful when tested on ovarian cancer cells,” Sadler added.
Derived from formic acid which is commonly found in a number of natural organisms including nettles and ants, Sodium formate (E-237) is more commonly used as a food preservative.
The Warwick researchers developed a novel method for binding Sodium formate with JS07 to form a more potent form of the drug.
The researchers subsequently found that the potent form of JS07 acts as a catalyst when it interacts with a cancer cell’s energy-generating mechanism.
This interaction disrupts the mechanism, causing the cell’s vital processes to cease functioning and for the cell to shut down.
The combination of Sodium formate and JS07 provides a number of potential benefits to cancer patients, including a reduction in the negative side-effects compared with other traditional cancer treatments, the researchers said.
Sadler’s lab focuses on medicinal inorganic chemistry in 4 main areas — Organometallic Anticancer Complexes, Photoactivated Anticancer Complexes, Antiviral and Stem-Cell Mobilising Metallomacrocycles, and Transferrin and Metalloantibiotics. Its research is conducted at the interface of chemistry, biology and medicinal sciences.