New therapies for safer, more effective cancer treatment

Until now, the most effective cancer drugs killed not only cancer cells, but also healthy cells.

Waterloo Professor Qing-Bin Lu is working on a new drug that kills cancer cells while preventing damage to healthy ones. The platinum in most cancer drugs causes side effects like neurotoxicity, kidney damage, and vomiting, but Lu has discovered a new family of non-platinum-based molecules similar to widely used platinum-based chemotherapy drugs that won’t damage healthy cells or cause side effects. Pre-clinical studies show these new molecules are effective against multiple cancers.

Optimizing the timing, sequencing, and dosage of chemotherapy drugs may also provide better patient outcomes. In a collaborative effort between Harvard Medical School and Waterloo’s Associate Professor Mohammad Kohandel, researchers combined mathematical models and experimental studies to determine the optimal time after chemotherapy to administer another targeted drug to kill more cancer cells. Pre-clinical results show the approach is killing cancer cells, shrinking tumours, and extending survival rates.

Professor Mohammad Kohandel and PhD candidate Moriah Jane Magcalas evaluate breast cancer cells received from Harvard University.

Professor Mohammad Kohandel and PhD candidate Moriah Jane Magcalas evaluate breast cancer cells received from Harvard University.

Mathematical models are also helping doctors determine the appropriate amount of a new high-intensity ultrasound (HIFU) therapy for use in bone cancer treatment. Professor Siv Sivaloganathan is developing models that optimize HIFU treatment to kill cancer cells while leaving surrounding tissue relatively unharmed. These models have already helped reduce and eliminate bone tumours in clinical trials.