A cancer drug could be made 50 times more effective by a chemical found in stinging nettles and ants, new research finds. Researchers at the University of Warwick found that when the chemical, Sodium Formate, is used in combination with a metal-based cancer treatment it can greatly increase its ability to shut down cancer cells.
Developed by Warwick's Department of Chemistry, the drug, a compound of the metal ruthenium called JS07, is capable of exploiting a cancer cell's natural weaknesses and disrupts its energy generation mechanism.
Laboratory tests on ovarian cancer cells have shown that when used in combination with Sodium Formate JS07 is 50 times more effective than when acting alone. Derived from formic acid which is commonly found in a number of natural organisms including nettles and ants, Sodium Formate (E-237) is more commonly used as a food preservative.
The Warwick researchers developed a novel method for binding Sodium Formate with JS07 to form a more potent form of the drug. The researchers subsequently found that the potent form of JS07 acts as a catalyst when it interacts with a cancer cell's energy-generating mechanism. This interaction disrupts the mechanism, causing the cell's vital processes to cease functioning and for the cell to shut down.