Curing Cancer and Your Coughs

Organic molecular rings.

February 11, 2014– Chances are, the last time you bought cough medicine, it was the common cough syrup medicine called Noscapine, which is known to have anticancer effects. This month, in an article published in the ChemMedChem Journal, Professor Peter J. Scammells and his laboratory at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences synthesized derivatives of the noscapine drug by modifying the noscapine organic molecule in hopes of increasing its anticancer efficacy.

Noscapine is an organic molecule, which means that it has several organic molecular rings with Carbon, Nitrogen, and Oxygen atoms around it. These molecular rings, called aromatic rings, help stabilize the drug when it enters into your body.

Scientists have now been working to modify and replace certain organic compounds that attach to these rings in order to cause different effects. For example, in this study the so-called “different effects” of the noscapine derivatives are the drug’s varying degree of preventing cancer. This study synthesized noscapine analogues with different attachments around the ring and tested arrested cell division, which corresponds to the prevented growth of cancer cells.

The study used three cancerous human cell lines–prostate cells, breast cells, and pancreas cells. The lab was able to test the noscapine derivatives’ ability to cause inhibited growth of the cancer cells using a cell-cycle examination called CellTiter-blue assay, which differentiates between viable and nonviable cancer cells. Cancer cells with high viability generate a fluorescent signal.

The researchers measured the percent increase in arrested cells and compared their results to the percentage of the remaining cells that continued to undergo division. Arrest below 20% identified the noscapine derivative as inactive while noscapine compounds that caused greater than a 100% arrest were considered active, (a greater than 100% accounted for some of the cancer cells that divided and added more cells to the group that experienced halted cell growth). The study concluded that most of the noscapine analogues corresponded to improved anticancer activity.


Original Research Article: DeBono, A. J., Mistry, S. J., Xie, J., Muthiah, D., Phillips, J., Ventura, S., Callaghan, R., Pouton, C. W., Capuano, B. and Scammells, P. J. (2014), The Synthesis and Biological Evaluation of Multifunctionalised Derivatives of Noscapine as Cytotoxic Agents. ChemMedChem, 9: 399–410. doi: 10.1002/cmdc.201300395


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