A clever chemical compound to deliver life-saving drugs

COLUMBIA, 9/9/12 (Beat Byte) -- A Mizzou chemistry professor has developed a way for chemotherapy to treat breast, lung and colon cancers with at least ten times more efficiency than present methods provide.

So-called "carboranes" -- clusters of carbon, boron, and hydrogen -- act like chemical magnets, helping anti-cancer drugs bind more tightly to targeted tumor cells. The tight binding "creates a more potent mechanism for destroying cancer," says Mark Lee, Jr., Ph.D., who developed the concept with a Mizzou research team.
Increased potency means smaller drug doses -- and reduced side effects. Chemotherapies bound tightly to tumors are less likely to affect healthy tissues.

Studied as drug design candidates for the past decade, carboranes marshal the same force that allows water skimming insects to skitter across a pond and water droplets to sit plump and intact until they evaporate: hydrogen bonding.
Hydrogen forms strong bonds with other elements, giving water -- and carboranes -- powerful properties.

"Carboranes exploit a unique form of hydrogen bonding, the strongest form of interactions for drugs," Lee said. "When we tested our carborane-based drugs, we found that they were unimaginably potent. These new drugs could be many thousands of times more potent than drugs used in clinics today."

Clinical trials could begin within two years. The Journal of Medicinal Chemistry published Lee's study in August.