IIT-M researchers find ways to improve efficacy of anti-cancer treatment

Time of administering the reactive oxygen species generating drugs could make it more effective, tthey say

June 22, 2020 04:40 pm | Updated 04:40 pm IST - CHENNAI

Common cancer therapies, including chemotherapy, are based on the action of reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by the drug on cancer cells.

Common cancer therapies, including chemotherapy, are based on the action of reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by the drug on cancer cells.

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras have claimed to have found ways to enhance the outcome of anti-cancer therapies.

A research team studied the reactive oxygen species, which includes hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radicals used commonly in chemotherapy. Their recent work has been published in Springer-Nature’s peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports.

The team was led by G.K. Suraishkumar and D. Karunagaran, faculty in the Department of Biotechnology.

Mr. Suraishkumar said, “Reactive Oxygen Species are molecules generated in the body during normal functioning and associated with many metabolic processes.” It is important to regulate these species as, if they exceed a certain limit, they can produce oxidate stress and damage the cells. This could result in inflammation and various diseases.

Common cancer therapies, including chemotherapy, are based on the action of ROS generated by the drug on cancer cells.

In the human body, antioxidant molecules are generated to moderate the levels of ROS, to prevent oxidative damage. To optimise ROS-generating cancer treatment and counter-treatments, oxidative stress is often assessed through measurement of the antioxidant levels in the cells.

The research team studied the effects of two reactive-oxygen-species generating compounds - menadione (Vitamin K3) and curcumin (the active principle of turmeric) – on cells of cervical and colon cancers.

The team has shown that the effective ROS levels vary rhythmically in the cell when treated with menadione or curcumin. Hence the timing of administration of anti-cancer drugs can affect its effectiveness.

“This means that by judiciously designing the time of administration of the ROS-generating anti-cancer drug, we can enhance cancer cell death by as much as 27%, thus enhancing the effectiveness of the treatment. We are collaborating with cancer hospitals to try our ‘simple timing’ strategy to enhance the effectiveness of cancer treatment,” Mr. Suraishkumar said.

The team also noticed that cellular anti-oxidant levels do not reflect the effective ROS level in the cell. “Our observations make us wonder if using antioxidant levels to decide the therapy parameters is less useful than generally believed,” the professor added.

The research paper was co-authored by research scholars, Uma Kizhuveetil and Sonal Omer.

The research was financially supported by a grant from the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India.

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