Development Of Specific Molecular Scaffolds

A multidisciplinary team from diverse research centers in Madrid;including various hospitals; Universalized Polytechnic de Madrid (UPM) and Completeness (UCM); has developed synthetic molecules which can specifically attach to neuroblastoma cells. The development of a system that can recognize cancer cells and specifically deliver drugs to such cells will increase the efficiency of the therapy and reduce the unwanted effects.

This study is using mice for the trials; but it is expecting its application in humans within the next five years. The neuroblastoma is a very aggressive pediatric tumor with a complex diagnosis when detected in the metastatic state. The current treatments consist of the administration of chemotherapeutic agents to kill cancer cells and slow the disease progression.

High Systemic Toxicity

Unfortunately, these drugs lack specificity against cancer cells and cause numerous side effects and high systemic toxicity; compromising the chances of recovery and quality of life of the patients. To find new solutions to improve the treatment, various research centers from Madrid in collaboration with diverse hospitals started a study that is already showing good results.

To this end, researchers have synthesized a family of molecules which are able to specifically bind a protein found in the cell membrane of more than 90% of neuroblastoma cells, the nor epinephrine transporter (NET).These molecules have a small central structure composed by natural amino acids that work as scaffolds specifically designed to fit in the recognition centers of the NET protein in a similar way that a key fits the lock”; Alejandro Baez, a UPM researcher involved in the project, explains.

To this end, researchers have synthesized a family of molecules which are able to specifically bind a protein found in the cell membrane of more than 90% of neuroblastoma cells, the nor epinephrine transporter (NET);treatments consist of the administration of chemotherapeutic agents to kill cancer cells and slow the disease progression.

Molecular Scaffolds

This way, the process of recognition is highly selective since the binding only occurs with the suitable “padlock”; which is only located in the surface of neuroblastoma cells avoiding thus the healthy cells”; In this study the effectiveness of the molecular scaffolds;testing is continued  in lab mice; but some suffering from this disease and the capacity of transporting; both drugs and diagnostic agents was seen.

Researchers are currently working on the application of this technology to specific transport of anti tumor drugs in neuroblastoma models like those that appear in humans.They are also studying the use of these systems for the improvement of early clinical diagnosis techniques of this disease.