Biodegradable plastic could lend anti-cancer drugs a hand

Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 06:00

Claire O’Connell

A building block of biodegradable plastic could boost the activity of anti-cancer agents on cells in the lab, according to a new study by researchers at University College Dublin.

The study used a molecular building block from a plastic which in turn can be broken down into simpler component building blocks, one of which is called R10.

Lead author Dr Kevin O'Connor from UCD School of Biomolecular & Biomedical Research came up with the idea of applying R10 in cancer from talking to collaborators Dr Marc Devocelle at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and cancer biologist Dr Norma O’Donovan at Dublin City University, who happens to be O'Connor's wife. "As a biotechnologist, I am interested in applications of plastics and the building blocks that make them up," he says. "When I looked at the chemistry of the building blocks and I talked to Marc and Norma, we came up with an idea."

The team built a new chemical combining R10 and two other substances known to have anti-cancer properties. Then the researchers put the new, synthetic molecule through its paces on a variety of cancer cell types and found it increased cancer cell death in the lab.

The study, which involved researchers from UCD, RCSI and Trinity College Dublin and is published in the April issue of the journal Biomaterials , also found that the new molecule could work in concert with other anti-cancer drugs, he adds.