Using a compound derived from a Himalayan mushroom, scientists at Oxford University have developed a new chemotherapy drug with powerful anti-cancer effects. Details are published by Clinical Cancer Research.

Scientists have developed a new chemotherapy drug with powerful anti-cancer effects. To do this, they used a compound derived from the Himalayan mushroom, cordycepin. It has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. Biologists have improved the penetrating properties of cordycepin into cancer cells, which increased its effectiveness 40 times. The study was conducted by scientists at the University of Oxford in collaboration with the biopharmaceutical company Nucana.

Cordycepin is a natural analogue of nucleosides. Originally extracted from a rare species of fungi that parasitize the larvae of some insects. It has been used to treat inflammatory diseases and cancers for hundreds of years. But several factors severely limit its effectiveness in fighting tumors.

This is largely due to the fact that when cordycepin enters the bloodstream, it is rapidly broken down by an enzyme called ADA. What is left must be transferred to cancer cells using a nucleoside transporter and then converted to an anti-cancer metabolite called 3′-dATP. This is very difficult for a simple natural cordycepin. As a result, only a meager part of the substance enters the tumor.

Nucana used ProTide technology to harness the full potential of Cordycepin. Its peculiarity is that it eliminates the disadvantages of nucleoside analogs. It works by attaching small chemical groups to the compound that make it more resistant to breakdown in the bloodstream, and also helps to enter cancer cells without the aid of nucleoside carriers. As a result, much higher levels of anticancer metabolites are generated and activated within the tumor cells.

An improved form of cordycepin was named NUC-7738. The new chemotherapy drug has already been evaluated in vitro studies.

Overall, the study authors concluded that NUC-7738 is 40 times superior to natural cordycepin and has limited toxic side effects. Scientists are now continuing to evaluate its effectiveness in phase I clinical trials in patients with advanced solid tumors. In the future, they plan to continue Phase II studies to further assess its clinical potential.