Rama Suntharalingam

Metallopharmaceuticals for the treatment of cancer 

Research Summary

tetranuclear cu complexCancer stem cells (CSCs) are a distinct population of tumour cells that have the ability to self-renew, differentiate, and form metastatic tumours. CSCs effectively evade conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy as these treatments specifically target fast growing cancer cells, and CSCs, due to their stem cell-like properties, divide more slowly. After surviving treatment, CSCs are able to regenerate the original tumour and/or produce invasive cancer cells that are able to colonise distant organs. For these reasons, CSCs are widely thought to be responsible for cancer relapse. Therefore, to provide a durable response and prevent tumour recurrence, chemotherapeutics must have the ability to remove the entire population of cancer cells, including CSCs. Therapeutic strategies capable of selectively killing CSCs and disrupting the microenvironments (niches) supporting these cells are the focus of several research programmes. Potential CSC therapeutic targets such as cell surface markers and various deregulated signalling pathways have been identified, but there is still no clinically approved drug that specifically kills CSCs. Many academia- and pharmaceutical-led studies aimed at developing chemical or biological anti-CSC agents are ongoing. Our group aims to harness the diversity and versatility offered by metals to develop inorganic compounds capable of potently and selectively killing CSCs (over bulk cancer cells and normal non-proliferating cells).

mammosphere HMLER breast cancer cellsMore generally, our group aims to use the structural, optical, redox, magnetic, and catalytic diversity offered by metal-containing small molecules to design and develop new generations of metallopharmaceuticals for the treatment of cancer as well as other diseases. The group also focuses on engineering new nano-material systems to deliver therapeutics to their site(s) of action.

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