MIT scientists developed a new biosensor based on hydrogen peroxide-sensing molecules that might help doctors estimate the effectiveness of cancer treatments and help them develop new therapies, as well. The sensor allows specialists to see if the cells are responding to a specific type of chemo drugs.
The molecules that made up the sensors are capable of detecting hydrogen peroxide levels within the cells, a fact which could assist doctors in estimating how effective is a cancer chemotherapy. Hydrogen peroxide is a compound primarily responsible for triggering programmed cell death, so the new technology can be adapted to screen each’s tumors and observe if a specific therapy is triggering the desired results in the cells.
“The same therapy isn’t going to work against all tumors. Currently, there’s a real dearth of quantitative, chemically specific tools to be able to measure the changes that occur in tumor cells versus normal cells in response to drug treatment,” explained Hadley Sikes, a professor of chemical engineering at MIT.
The biosensor made up of hydrogen peroxide-sensing molecules help doctors notice the effectiveness of cancer treatments
Cancer cells present various mutations that affect their normal metabolism and trigger the reckless production of hydrogen peroxide. When too much of this compound is generated, the cells get damaged, and the cancer cells become “addicted” to the antioxidant systems that flush away the molecule from the cells.
The so-called “redox drugs,” commonly used in cancer treatments, are targeting this specific aspect by either addressing the antioxidant system, reducing its capacities or increasing the production of hydrogen peroxide.
“One of the problems is that the clinical trials usually find that they work for some patients and they don’t work for other patients. We really need tools to be able to do more well-designed trials where we figure out which patients are going to respond to this approach and which aren’t,” explained Sikes.
The sensor developed by MIT and based on hydrogen peroxide-sensing molecules was successfully tested on two types of cancer cells, and the researchers pointed out that the biosensor could be used to either screen libraries of existing drugs to see which could work or to determine if the cancer treatments are indeed effective.