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Scientists distinguish molecules most capable of fighting prostate cancer

Scientists from MIPT (Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology), MSU (Moscow State University), and National University of Science and Technology “MISIS” provided an overview of the most promising compounds which can be used as medications for prostate cancer. The article was published in the Journal of Drug Targeting.

A team of researchers from the four research centers — Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Moscow State University, National University of Science and Technology (MISIS), and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) — provided an overview of molecules capable of assisting in the fight against prostate cancer and in the diagnosis of this illness. Also authors compiled a list of the most promising compounds.

Researchers have identified 11 compounds of great promise. All these substances are currently tested in clinical trials. In other words, at the stage of preclinical studies they demonstrated the necessary qualities.

Sometimes researchers spend more than ten years before they can produce a new registered drug from a promising molecule. Initially, the scientists check the substance on cell culture — this gives them a chance to prove that the above substance can actually slow or stop tumor growth. After that, they conduct tests on animals — it is necessary to filter out substances which are effective only in ideal conditions of a test tube, but not in a real organism. Then they perform clinical trials, whereby at the first stage they are only checking the safety – not effectiveness, and whether or not the potential drug reaches the target.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. Today, the majority of anti-cancer therapies are not selective enough and may have a detrimental effect not only on cancer cells, but on the healthy cells of the body as well. That is why it is so important to develop such drugs that would attack the cancer cells exclusively, which will increase the effectiveness of treatment and reduce the negative impact of therapy on the body as a whole. However, to ensure the drug selectivity, the scientists need some object which is present only in cancer cells – and not anywhere else: a cancer marker.

The well-known marker for prostate cancer is PSA (prostate specific antigen), which is already used in medicine for the diagnosis of prostate cancer. However, for a number of reasons, PSA is considered as an insufficiently precise target. A promising alternative for the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer is PSMA (prostate specific membrane antigen). In the case of cancer, prostate tissues contain almost 10 times as many of these markers as healthy tissues of the prostate gland. Also, diagnosis by means of this marker can detect the tiniest metastases (secondary distant tumors).

“PSMA is one of the most promising biological targets for the development of new hybrids of selective PSMA ligands with antitumor medicinal substances or molecular diagnostic tools for their targeted delivery to the site of the disease – particularly in the case of prostate cancer,”says Yan Andreevich Ivanenkov, Ph.D (biology), Head of the Laboratory of Medical Chemistry and Bioinformatics, a lecturer in MIPT.