Experimental Cancer Drug Significantly More Potent than Cisplatin

Drug could be less expensive to produce and less harmful to healthy cells.

Drug could be less expensive to produce and less harmful to healthy cells.

An experimental drug showed significantly superior efficacy for bowel and ovarian cancers compared with a standard treatment during a recent study.

An analysis supported by the European Research Council and published by PNAS found the novel drug FY26 was 49 times more potent than the clinically used treatment Cisplatin. FY26, which is a compound of the precious metal osmium, is capable of deactivating a cancer cell by exploiting weaknesses inherent in cell energy generation.

"Healthy cells generate their energy in organelles called mitochondria, but cancer cells have defective mitochondria and are forced to generate energy through glycolysis in the cytoplasm,” said lead researcher Professor Peter Sadler. “Our new compounds work by attacking the energy balance in cancer cells."

The research suggests that FY26 may be less expensive to produce and less harmful to healthy cells than existing treatments. Furthermore, the experimental drug was found to be active against cancer cells that developed resistance to platinum-based drugs.

"Platinum-based drugs are used in nearly 50% of all chemotherapeutic regimens and exert their activity by damaging DNA and cannot select between cancerous and non-cancerous cells,” Sadler said. “This can lead to a wide range of side effects from renal failure to neurotoxicity, ototoxicity, nausea, and vomiting. Existing platinum-based cancer treatments often become less effective after the first course, as cancer cells learn how they are being attacked, but our new osmium compound with its different mechanism of action, remains active against cancer cells that have become resistant to drugs such as Cisplatin."

The study evaluated FY26 across 809 cancer cell lines, with similar results achieved regarding the efficacy of the drug compared with Cisplatin by the National Cancer Institute USA in testing on 60 cell lines. FY26 forces cancer cells to use its mitochondria to produce the energy necessary to function. Unlike healthy cells, the defective mitochondria in cancer cells are unable to sustain the energy required by the cell.

Without FY26, cancer cells were able to switch from using the defective mitochondria to using metabolic activity in cytoplasm to generate energy. However, when FY26 stopped the cell from switching energy sources, the cancer cell subsequently died.

"Current statistics indicate that one in every two people will develop some kind of cancer during their life time, with approximately one woman dying of ovarian cancer every two hours in the UK according to Cancer Research UK and two deaths every hour from bowel cancer,” said co-researcher Isolda Romero-Canelon, MD. "It is clear that a new generation of drugs is necessary to save more lives and our research points to a highly effective way of defeating cancerous cells."