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Researchers find promising cancer-fighting power of synthetic cell-signaling molecule

Liotta and his colleagues at Emory prepared almost 100 sphingolipid-based analogs that lead to the discovery that the Enigmols were the most potent. The lead compounds were named "Enigmols" because sphingolipids were named after the sphinx for their enigmatic properties. Emory University holds the patent on compounds of this type.

In addition to being more potent than naturally occurring sphingolipids, the researchers have also found that Enigmols can be administered orally and appear in often-difficult-to reach organs such as the prostate. "This is what suggested to us that Enigmols should be tested against other cancer types," Merrill explained.

Subsequently, the researchers found that Enigmols suppress the growth of human prostate tumors implanted in mice, which is a commonly used model to test new anti-cancer drugs. They were also effective in two other mouse models for colon cancer.

"We do not know why Enigmols affect such a wide range of tumor cell types," Merrill said. "But it may be due to the involvement of sphingolipids in multiple cell-signaling pathways. This means a compound may affect several different targets, rather than just one."

In essence, Enigmols may act like a multi-drug combination therapy, the investigators speculate.

Enigmols are also being tested in combination with other cancer chemotherapeutic drugs using funds from EmTech Bio -- a life sciences technology business incubator operated by Georgia Tech and Emory. This research is coordinated with Slainte Bioceuticals, a start-up biotechnology company in metro Atlanta that is helping to bring this potential drug to market.

"Even if Enigmols are effective in humans, the greatest success is likely to come from the right combination of drugs that interact in a synergistic way," Merrill noted. So information from the EmTech Bio study may be particularly useful if Enigmols enter human clinical trials because the patients will have undergone, and wil
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Source:Georgia Institute of Technology Research News


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