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Stinging nettles chemical makes cancer drug 50 times more effective

A chemical found in stinging nettles and ants could make a cancer drug 50 times more effective, research carried out on ovarian cancer cells at the University of Warwick has found.

Professor Peter Sadler’s research, developed by Warwick’s Department of Chemistry and published by Nature Communications, found that the metal-based cancer treatment becomes drastically more effective in shutting down cancer cells when combined with sodium formate.

Sodium formate, or E-237, is currently used as a preservative in food and is derived from formic acid.
The drug with which sodium formate has been combined is a compound of the metal ruthenium, called JS07.

The researchers developed a new way of binding Sodium Formate with JS07 which increases its potence.
The drug operates by disrupting the energy-generation mechanism of cancer cells, obstructing the cell’s vital processes so that it shuts down.

The more potent JS07 drug has fewer side effects than traditional cancer treatments, as it is only required in lower doses.

The drug’s efficiency is also hailed as a benefit to patients: once it has disrupted the functioning of the cancerous cells, more sodium formate can be added to the remaining non-potent JS07 molecules, allowing them to be reused.

Dr. Isolda Romero-Canelon, a co-researcher, and her colleagues Joan and Abraha, said: “We initially hypothesised that the effect of Formate combined with our compound would have an effect inside cells.

“It was exciting to see that our hypothesis was right, but we were surprised to find such major effect.

“We would like to point out that although our research is focused in the development of new metal based drugs for the treatment of cancer the clinical development is a very long way ahead.

“Having said that, the lesson that can be learned from our recent research finding is that, it is important to understand how the metal exerts their anticancer activities, so that we can try to exploit other aspects of their properties and enhance its effectiveness.”


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