Can metal transport proteins deliver drugs to cancer cells?

Submitted by Patricia B. O'Hara

Metal biding proteins such as transferrin and serum albumin have high affinities for metals such as iron.  Cancer cells overexpress receptors for transferrin in their cell membranes as a consequence of their desperate need for oxygen and the high rate of metabolism.  We are using fluorescence spectroscopy to evaluate the extent of binding of iron analogues to transferrin.  These analogues are Ru(III) based, and the hope is that once inside a cancer cell, they will become reduced to Ru(II) and bind to DNA.  Once the metal has bound to the DNA, the high rate of cell division will be compromised and the cancer cell's growth will be slowed.

This work was initiated by Zandra Walton '09 as a Hughes Project and has been further explored by Lauren Benson '08 in her senior thesis project.  As a Hughes student, Phoebe Arbogast '10 explored additional Ru(III) compounds from Dr. Renzo Cini, our collaborator in Siena, Italy during the summer of 2008.   Jeremy Aronson, a rising senior at Amherst Regional High School assisted her in this work.  See links to their work below.