Scientists Find Way to Rid Cancer Cells Using Metal From Dinosaur Extinction Period 

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New research carried out by the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom in collaboration with Sun Yat-Sen University in China brings some exciting news for those affected by cancer.  The study has revealed that cancer cells can be destroyed using the same metal from the asteroid which caused the dinosaurs to become extinct.

This amazing metal is called iridium and is the world’s second densest metal.  It kills cancer cells by injecting a deadly form of oxygen into them without harming any of the surrounding healthy tissue.  The researchers created the potent compound of iridium and organic material and used it to target it the cancerous cells before using the energy to transform the oxygen inside to singlet oxygen – the kind that kills the cell.

The whole process is made possible by shining a visible laser light straight through the skin and onto the cancerous area.  In doing this the compound becomes activated and the metal begins to fill the cancerous cells with the lethal singlet oxygen.  In a model tumor of lung cancer cells that had been made in the lab, researchers found that after the laser struck, the organic-iridium compound seeped into every layer of the tumor and destroyed it.

Results from the study brings exciting news as it demonstrates just how effective this treatment can be.  The research also showed that the method is safe to any surrounding cells.  They did this by applying the technique to a non-cancerous area and found that it had no effect at all.  The researchers also got a close up view of the individual proteins within cancer cells using ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry.  This allowed them to see exactly which proteins were being attacked by the compound.

After sifting through and analyzing large amounts of data the researchers concluded that the iridium compound damaged those proteins responsible for heat shock stress and glucose metabolism, both of which are key cancer molecules.  “This project is a leap forward in understanding how these new iridium-based anti-cancer compounds are attacking cancer cells, introducing different mechanisms of action, to get around the resistance issue and tackle cancer from a different angle.”

The researchers are hopeful that the study will lead to the developments of better drugs for the treatment of cancer.  “Remarkable advances in modern mass spectrometry now allow us to analyze complex mixtures of proteins in cancer cells and pinpoint drug targets, on instruments that are sensitive enough to weigh even a single electron,” said Peter O’Connor, Professor of Analytical Chemistry at Warwick.

Platinum is already being used in over half of all chemotherapy treatments around today.  Now iridium and other metals will be studied more extensively as potential new components to be used in more effective targeted cancer treatments.

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