Targeting drug-resistant cells

Cancer research is one step closer to finding a cure for multidrug-resistant cancer cells - by using large molecules.

A multidisciplinary research team led by A*Star's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) created synthetic macromolecules that can kill multidrug-resistant cancer cells and cancer stem cells.

These macromolecules can potentially be developed into an anti-cancer drug to treat patients and prevent cancer relapse.

When hardier cancer cells survive treatment, they will evolve to become drug resistant over time, leading to a relapse. But the macromolecules use mechanisms different from traditional treatment to destroy cancer cells, allowing them to surpass drug resistance.

As the macromolecule contains positively charged components, it can bind to the negatively charged surfaces of cancer cells. Like a physical attack, the large molecules would poke holes into the cancer cells and destroy them.

The team includes researchers from Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Genome Institute of Singapore and IBM Research.

They are seeking industry partners to make the macromolecular treatment available to patients.

Their research was built on a 2016 study about a macromolecule that could treat viruses, and a 2018 study which showed that macromolecules may help to fight superbugs.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2019, with the headline 'Targeting drug-resistant cells'. Print Edition | Subscribe