Synthetic Macromolecules Proven to Kill Multidrug-resistant Cancer Cells, Prevent the Spread of Cancer, and Avert Drug Resistance Development

A multidisciplinary research team from A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), and Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), together with IBM Research, has developed synthetic macromolecules that have been proven to kill multidrug-resistant cancer cells and cancer stem cells, prevent the spread of cancer cells (metastasis), and avert the development of drug resistance. These novel macromolecules have the potential to be developed into an anti-cancer drug to treat cancer patients and prevent cancer relapse.

The team focused its studies heavily on the use of macromolecules – large molecules or polymeric assemblies – which exhibit unique properties to attack diseases by mechanisms different from traditional therapies. This emerging discipline of study, pioneered by researchers such as Dr Yi Yan Yang from A*STAR’s IBN and Dr James Hedrick from IBM Research, is known as Macromolecular Therapeutics. Its use in destroying cancer cells was demonstrated in collaboration with Dr Qingfeng Chen from A*STAR’s IMCB, and Dr Paola Florez de Sessions from A*STAR’s GIS, and was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal, Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Cancer affects many people, and is a leading cause of death worldwide. Multiple treatments with conventional chemotherapeutic drugs have led to the development of drug resistance, therefore cancer metastasis and relapse also occur in many patients. The US government has established the Cancer Moonshot initiative with the intent of vastly accelerating cancer research and delivering improved treatment regimens. A critical aim of this programme, outlined in the 2016 Blue Ribbon Panel Report, is to overcome drug resistance of cancer. There is an urgent need to develop new therapeutics that can kill multidrug-resistant cancer cells without inducing drug resistance development after multiple treatments.


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