Metal Drugs: Novel Compounds for Novel TreatmentsBack
- Related paper published in the PNAS
- HKU press release
- Professor Hongzhe Sun
- Professor Godfrey Chan
- Department of Chemistry
- Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
For millions of cancer patients, one of the most effective available treatments is to undergo a chemotherapy regimen. The treatment itself though can cause adverse reactions, so bad in some cases that patients refuse to take the drugs.
Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells by preventing them from growing and multiplying, but healthy cells are also harmed during the process, which is responsible for the distressing side effects.
Scientists and doctors have long sought to eliminate these and now a collaborative research project at the University of Hong Kong has succeeded with early tests in an innovative treatment using what is known as a “metal drug”.
These drugs are novel metal-containing compounds designed in laboratories for original treatments of a variety of diseases and new approaches to patient care. In this case the metallic compound was synthesized by Professor Hongzhe Sun in HKU’s Department of Chemistry as part of his research in metal drugs using technology called metallomics and metalloproteomics.
Working in collaboration with Professor Godfrey Chan at the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, they have proven in lab experiments that the metal compound is effective in preventing chemotherapy toxicity in healthy cells.
This is just one of many potential uses of metal drugs as ongoing and new research creates more novel compounds that the two professors have shown to be effective in early anti-cancer and anti-ulcer tests.
Research on metal drugs began more than 30 years ago with the development of platinum drugs from cisplatin, which is now commonly used in chemotherapy regimens for solid tumours.
Professor Sun has also identified potential drug-binding proteins from pathogens while he and his team have used protein-chemistry and molecular-biology to validate targets for effective drug design.
The bismuth-containing drug used and developed by HKU over the past decade is also used to fight the common Helicobacter Pylori infection. This is a bacteria that is present in half of humans and it has been recognized as a cause of about 50% of stomach cancers.
Work on these and other metal drugs is still in the developmental phase but the research has tremendous long-term potential as Professor Sun and Professor Chan explain in this short video.