As earlier research established, a protein called carbonic anhydrase IX (CA IX) is the target for drug treatments. Present in many aggressive cancers, such as breast, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas, and brain, the protein works by regulating the pH levels in surrounding cancer cells.
This approach brings along a complication of (CA IX) being similar to 14 other carbonix anydrase proteins found in the body, which help keep everything in working order. Scientists have not been able to figure out how to target the CA IX while leaving the beneficial proteins intact.
A team of Italian scientists discovered that saccharin boosts this very capacity, by binding selectively to (CA IX) to hinder its activity.
Scientists are using an X-ray crystallography to examine more closely how saccharin binds to CA IX and how the process could be improved by fine-tuning saccharin-based compounds to increase its cancer-fighting ability.
“It never ceases to amaze me how a simple molecule, such as saccharin, something many people put in their coffee everyday, may have untapped uses, including as a possible lead compound to target aggressive cancers,” says Robert McKenna, Ph.D., from the University of Florida. “This result opens up the potential to develop a novel anti-cancer drug that is derived from a common condiment that could have a lasting impact on treating several cancers.”
The research is scheduled for presentation at the American Chemical Society.