A new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, by the University of Warwick in Britain has found that a chemical compound commonly found in stinging nettles and ants is capable of halting the production of cancer cells. The chemical called E-237 is derived from formic acid.
Stinging nettles have a long history of being used for medicinal use. They are commonly used to treat urinary tract infections, aches and pains, hay fever and insect bites.
Researchers combined the chemical with a compound of the metal ruthenium called JS07. The compound on its own has the capability of halting cancer progression. In combination with sodium formate its potency is significantly increased.
“By itself, JS07 is capable of shutting down cancer cells but when used in combination with sodium formate this ability is significantly increased,” says lead researcher Prof. Peter Sadler. “As a result, lower doses would be required to target cancer cells – reducing both the drug’s toxicity and potential side effects.”
“Cancer cells require a complex balance of processes to survive,” Prof. Sadler explains. “When this balance is disrupted, the cell is unable to function due to a range of process failures and eventually shuts down. The potent form of JS07 has proven to be very successful when tested on ovarian cancer cells.”
The cancer cells most affected include ovarian cancer cells. Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer in the US and it is expected that 21,290 women in the US will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year.
Transfer hydrogenation catalysis in cells as a new approach to anticancer drug design, Peter J. Sadler, et al., Nature Commun., published online 20 March 2015.