New 'combo' strategy could deliver knockout punch against cancer
Washington, February 12 : A drug that is effective against cancer and drug-resistant bacteria, could best deliver its knockout blow when used in combination with medicines made from naturally occurring toxins, US researchers suggest.
"One of the oldest tricks in fighting is the one-two punch -- you distract your opponent with one attack and deliver a knockout blow with another," said Jose Onuchic of Rice University.
"Combinatorial drug therapies employ that strategy at a cellular level."
Onuchic and CTBP colleagues Eshel Ben-Jacob and Patricia Jennings reached their conclusions after analyzing several studies on anti-microbial peptides (AMPs), corkscrew-shaped chains of amino acids that kill Gram-negative bacteria.
Though research has shown that AMPs can kill cancer cells, scientists are concerned that cancer cells could develop resistance to the compounds.
Onuchic said another advantage of therapies involving synthetic AMPs is that the drugs can be administered in extremely small doses, which will reduce side effects.
The Rice team suggests maximizing the benefits of synthetic AMPs by using them in drug cocktails that act like a one-two punch for either bacteria or cancer.
Naturally occurring AMPs are chemical weapons that bacteria themselves have developed over millions of years in their never-ending war among themselves. The team reasons that combining these natural toxins with man-made mirror drugs will create the drug equivalent of a one-two punch. The combination should "confuse" bacteria and cancer and prevent them from rapidly becoming resistant to the man-made drugs.
"Nature is smarter than we are," Ben-Jacob said.
"Time and again, we have seen that seemingly simple cellular foes like bacteria and cancer can learn to mount effective defenses against any new drug we create. It is time to accept them as sophisticated enemies. We should attack them in much the same way that a well-trained boxer or military commander would go after a wily opponent -- with multiple, coordinated blows of very different kinds," he added.
The study will be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.