Anybody could have a glimpse of that ‘spark of hope’ in the statement made by Robert McKenna from University of Florida, it said: “It never ceases to amaze me how a simple molecule, such as saccharin — something many people put in their coffee everyday — may have untapped uses, including as a possible lead compound to target aggressive cancers.” It is something worth trying especially for those who already have the disease.
The finding was presented at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Denver.
And what exactly is saccharin? This is the most probable question one may ask. It is the oldest sugar substitute which is low in calorie content. Its usage is dated a century back and is safety for use.
The new work involved a thorough examination on how saccharin sticks to and demobilizes a protein present in some highly aggressive cancers. This protein is called carbonic anhydrase IX . It is one of many driving factors in the growth and distribution of such cancers in the breast, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas and brain.
How does carbonic anhydrase IX work; it helps in the regulation of the pH level inside and around cancer cells, allowing tumors to grow and may possibly metastasize to other parts of the body.
The result of this finding is the reason why the researchers wanted to develop saccharin-based drug candidates that could slow the growth of these cancers and potentially make them less resistant to chemo- or radiation therapies.
Naturally, carbonic anhydrase IX is not found in healthy human cells, except for in the gastrointestinal tract. This makes it a prime target for anti-cancer drugs that would cause little or no side effects to healthy tissue surrounding the tumor, McKenna stated.
McKenna and his team is presently testing the effects of saccharin and saccharin-based compounds on breast and liver cancer cells. Should the test show a positive outcome , these experiments could lead to other alternative studies: in animals.