Media Releases

New compound may lead to development of cheaper anti-cancer drugs

February 26, 2015

TORONTO, ON — A new com­pound devel­oped at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Scar­bor­ough could play an impor­tant role in devel­op­ing cheap­er anti-can­cer drugs.

Pro­fes­sor Bernie Kraatz, chair of the Depart­ment of Phys­i­cal and Envi­ron­men­tal Sci­ences at U of T Scar­bor­ough, has devel­oped a new com­pound that can be used to mon­i­tor the bio­chem­i­cal process­es involved with a group of enzymes called pro­tein kinas­es.

The pre­vail­ing form of mon­i­tor­ing kinase activ­i­ty involves the use of radioac­tive iso­topes, which is cost­ly because the iso­topes are expen­sive to use and have a short shelf life. They are also dif­fi­cult to work with because of the reg­u­la­tions asso­ci­at­ed with their han­dling and dis­pos­al.

“We want­ed to find a way to get around the hur­dles involved with using radioac­tive iso­topes,” says Kraatz. “Hav­ing a com­pound that can be used in live cells is impor­tant because it can help clin­i­cians bet­ter mon­i­tor kinase activ­i­ty and to deter­mine if a drug they’re admin­is­ter­ing is effec­tive in terms of reg­u­lat­ing kinase activ­i­ty.”

Pro­tein kinas­es play an essen­tial role in ener­gy trans­fer with­in all liv­ing things includ­ing con­trol­ling cell divi­sion, growth and death while also reg­u­lat­ing meta­bol­ic path­ways and even cell com­mu­ni­ca­tion. If pro­tein kinase activ­i­ty is not reg­u­lat­ed prop­er­ly it can lead to cer­tain dis­eases, includ­ing can­cer.

Kraatz’s team was able to devel­op a way to mon­i­tor the activ­i­ty of pro­tein kinase – in this case a sar­co­ma-relat­ed kinase – by using a redox label rather than a radioac­tive label. A redox label is a com­pound that pro­vides an elec­tri­cal sig­nal that can be detect­ed very accu­rate­ly. The result is a safer, sim­pler and cheap­er alter­na­tive to mon­i­tor­ing the effi­cien­cy of drugs and kinase activ­i­ty.

“Chemists often come up with won­der­ful mod­els and reac­tions but trans­lat­ing those into a bio­med­ical envi­ron­ment can be very dif­fi­cult,” says Kraatz. “We were able to take a fan­tas­tic label that can be used per­fect­ly well in a bio­med­ical envi­ron­ment.”

Anoth­er ben­e­fit of the com­pound devel­oped by Kraatz and his team is that a flu­o­res­cence label can be attached to it, which gives off light that can be detect­ed when excit­ed. This is ben­e­fi­cial because it can pro­duce an addi­tion­al read­out for clin­i­cians try­ing to under­stand kinase activ­i­ty or deter­mine the effec­tive­ness of a drug.

The research, which received fund­ing from the Nat­ur­al Sci­ences and Engi­neer­ing Research Coun­cil of Cana­da, is avail­able online in Chem­istry – A Euro­pean Jour­nal.

- 30 -

For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Don Camp­bell
Media Rela­tions Offi­cer
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions & Pub­lic Affairs
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Scar­bor­ough
Phone: 416–208-2938