Researchers have designed a new anticancer agent that targets the survival mechanism of cancer cells, according to a report published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (2010;285(16):9780-9791).

The agent, called OSU-CG12, was designed by Ching-Shih Chen, professor of medicinal chemistry, internal medicine, and urology, and collaborators, by restructuring ciglitazone, a drug developed to treat type 2 diabetes.

Using prostate cancer and breast cancer cell lines, Dr. Chen and his team showed that OSU-CG12 worked 10 times better at killing cancer cells than ciglitazone and resveratrol, a natural product that has weak anticancer activity. Furthermore, researchers were able to show that OSU-CG12 not only stopped glucose from entering cancer cells but also suppressed the cells’ ability to metabolize the sugar.

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“Energy restriction may offer a powerful new strategy for treating cancer because it targets a survival mechanism used by many types of cancer,” said Dr. Chen.

The authors explained the results stating that when starved for fuel, the cancer cells begin consuming themselves, accompanied by other biochemical events that lead to apoptosis.

“Our study proves that this new agent kills cancer cells through energy restriction. This is important because it shows that it is possible to design drugs that target energy restriction, and it is exciting because energy-restricting mimetic agents may also be useful for other diseases, including metabolic syndromes, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity,” Dr. Chen stated.