University of Pretoria, South Africa
Title: Novel in silico-designed anti-cancer compounds: From in vitro exploration to potential clinical considerations
A E Theron qualifi ed as a medical doctor, and after a few years as a trauma and aviation doctor, and then returned to her fi rst interest of molecular medical science. She joined the University of Pretoria in 2009 where she is currently a senior Lecturer in physiology. She is part of a research team involved in developing and investigating novel anti-cancer molecules.
The concept behind these novel in silico-designed anti-cancer compounds encompasses harnessing the well described anti-mitotic eff ects of 2-methoxyestradiol with modifi cations to increase bioavailability, as well as preferential tumour localization via carbonic anhydrase IX binding. Spectrophotometric dose analysis revealed that these novel compounds are cytotoxic at nanomolar concentrations in a number of neoplastic cell types, a property retained in a PgP-overexpressing multi-drug resistant cell line. Microscopy techniques including live imaging of tubulin dynamics confi rmed the induction of apoptosis and autophagy due to alternation of spindle dynamics. Molecular pathways and intracellular responses were assessed via multiple techniques including Western blotting and fl ow cytometry. Chick chorioallantoic membrane assays revealed a signifi cant reduction in primary tumour size and a decreased number of distant metastasis. Ex vivo eff ects on human blood, as well as potential platelet interference were examined both microscopically and via fl ow cytometry. In bridging the gap towards clinical applications, acute mouse toxicity and metabolism studies were performed. Potential eff ects on haematopoietic stem cells were investigated; the results of which indicated that the compounds are not toxic at the IC50 concentrations established for cancer cells. Additionally, aft er drug exposure, stem cells retained their diff erentiating capacity. Potential use of the compounds within a combined treatment regimen was investigated; both with established chemotherepeutic drugs in spectrophotometric matrices, and in radiosensitization studies. Further studies will encompass mouse tumour models, as well as to elucidated whether the conceptual preferential tumour localization is achieved in vivo.