Scientists Use Iron Sensor to Target Deadly Tumors

By modifying an existing drug, the team hopes to attack cancer caused by RAS mutations more effectively.

Mutations in the RAS gene inhibit the body’s ability to defend itself against cancer as it allows for uncontrolled growth and development of tumors. Tumors that develop due to these mutations are extremely difficult to treat, and are responsible for roughly 25% of cancer deaths. A recent New Atlas article discussed a new method for treating these tumors that could pave the way for next-generation treatments.

A team of researchers at University of California, San Francisco found that a lot of the tumors linked to RAS gene mutations contain high concentrations of ferrous iron. Beyond that, they discovered a connection between the elevated iron levels and shorter survival times for patients. So, they took cobimetinib, an FDA-approved cancer drug, and modified it with a molecular sensor for ferrous iron to reduce collateral damage to healthy tissue. The drug now remains inactive until it encounters ferrous iron in the cancer cells, at which point it activates its anti-cancer effects. The team behind the concept hope to apply it to antibiotics next.

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