The science behind the fight against cancer

27 September 2017
Professor Christian Hartinger from the School of Chemical Sciences and Associate Investigator at the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery
Professor Christian Hartinger from the School of Chemical Sciences and Associate Investigator at the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery

DNA-targeted metal compounds play an important role in the treatment of cancer and have been used for decades as a standard cancer treatment against a wide variety of cancer types.

But the lack of understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms in tumour cells, beyond the interaction with DNA of platinum drugs, means that scientists are only just beginning to discover the potential of what are called “metallodrugs”.

Professor Christian Hartinger from the University of Auckland’s School of Chemical Sciences and Associate Investigator at the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery will give a free public lecture on the role of metallodrugs and their potential as new anticancer treatments.

“While organic compounds continue to dominate medicinal chemistry, inorganic metallodrugs are an exciting new frontier because metal compounds have specific properties that allow us to develop new treatments that can target cancer cells much more narrowly by exploiting their metal-specific properties,” Professor Hartinger says.

While chemotherapy drugs target cells that divide more quickly than other cells – a key feature of cancer cells – they also kill healthy cells and the side effects can be severe.

“If you target DNA that is present in all cells, there are going to be a very wide range of side effects and that’s why our work is focused on different drug delivery mechanisms that target cancer cells much more narrowly and new anticancer agents that target cancer cell-specific properties.

“We want to increase the tumour cell delivery of drugs and use the differences between tumour cells and healthy cells in protein expression to inhibit cell growth.”

There will never be one cure for cancer because there are so many different types but the more we learn, the more we can improve treatment.

“While the number of cancer registrations and cancer deaths increased over the 2004-2013 period, the mortality rate decreased. This is testament to improved early diagnosis and treatment.”

Metal-based therapeutic and diagnostic agents have the potential to be used across a wide range of diseases other than cancer. These include studies on the treatment of for example ulcers, malaria, and bipolar disorder, or their use as contrast agents in MRI scans.

This free public lecture will be held at 5.30pm on Thursday 5 October in the Large Chemistry Lecture Theatre, Building 301, 23 Symonds St Auckland. Light refreshments will follow the lecture.

 

Contact:

Anne Beston | Media Relations Adviser, Communications, University of Auckland

Email: a.beston@auckland.ac.nz, Tel: +64 9 923 3258, Mobile: + 64 (0) 21 970 089