Creating “smart” drugs to seek and destroy the bad guys
With traditional chemotherapy treatments, both cancerous and healthy cells are damaged, resulting in harsh side effects for cancer patients.
Using cutting-edge nuclear imaging at the University of Saskatchewan, including Canada’s only synchrotron and a new cyclotron, Eric Price, Canada Research Chair in Radiochemistry, aims to help change that. He plans to create “smart” drugs with the ability to hunt down dangerous cancer cells and multi-drug resistant bacteria in the body, while ignoring and sparing healthy cells.
The chemical design of these new radioactive drugs is much like Lego in that they contain many interchangeable parts. By swapping certain modules, the new chemical groups assembled by Price’s lab theoretically could target any type of cancer or bacteria.
By attaching different types of radioactive materials to these drugs, they can be used with a plethora of cutting-edge medical imaging techniques, and even be used to selectively destroy cancer cells using therapeutic radioactive materials. The capability to selectively search for very small tumours and even single cancer cells would greatly advance cancer treatment.
These “smart” radioactive drugs hold promise to improve cancer cure rates, decrease toxicity and side effects compared to traditional chemotherapy, and help prevent recurrence of disease. As well, an entirely new treatment for multi-drug resistant bacterial infections—a growing global health threat—could result.
This high-impact work could lead to new intellectual property and commercialization, building on the university’s reputation as a pioneer in nuclear medicine and its strengths in research and innovation in radiochemistry, nuclear medicine and medical imaging.