A group of scientists from the University of Oxford has created a new compound that could help a lot in the battle against cancer: a variation of cordycepin, whose effectiveness in chemotherapies is 40 times greater than the original compound.
Cordycepin is a drug based on fungi from the Himalayas and has previously been used in cancer treatments. However, its effectiveness is reduced because, upon entering the bloodstream, it is weakened by an enzyme present in the body and called ADA.
The new research, led by Oxford scientists Sarah Blagden and Hagen Schwenzer and in conjunction with pharmaceutical company NuCana, developed an improved version of cordycepin, called NUC-7738, that is not as affected by the enzyme as the original.
To do this, they used a technology called NuCana’s ProTide, which adds new chemicals to cordycepin and makes it more resistant. ProTide technology has already been used before in treatments for other diseases, such as Ebola or COVID-19 itself, and is present in drugs approved by the US authorities.
The first tests of this new compound, carried out on Phase I cancer tumor cells, show that indeed, NUC-7738 is more powerful and attacks cancer cells more effectively. In addition, the researchers reveal that the patients have resisted well to the treatment and that the side effects of this potentiated version are not very different from those generated by traditional cordycepin.
What comes next are Phase II cancer cell tests and, if effective, they open a new light of hope in the fight against the disease.