A research led by scientists from the University of the Pacific heralds new possibilities for the treatment of cancer and other diseases using peptide drugs. The researchers concocted a technique to considerably enhance the lifespan of peptides such that they could be used more efficiently. The findings are published in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.
Peptides are small chains of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins (the latter are basically poly-peptide chains). Treating diseases like cancer by using peptides is thought to be effective because they can be more potent, and safer to use than larger molecules. Furthermore, they act selectively on their targets. However, researchers encounter a major obstacle when dealing with them: their short lifespan necessitates large amounts of them to be administered regularly.
“The tremendous therapeutic potential of peptides has not yet been realized, mainly because they can’t survive long in the bloodstream,” says the paper’s lead author, Mamoun Alhamadsheh, assistant professor of pharmacy at Pacific.
“In our approach, we tagged peptides with a compound that enables it to hitch a ride on a larger protein in blood. This allows the peptides to avoid degradation and survive in the body much longer.”
Alhamadsheh believes their findings will counter the current problems when dealing with peptides.
“The extended lifespan provided by our technology will allow less frequent administration of the peptide drug, resulting in lower cost and higher patient compliance and convenience,” says Alhamadsheh.
Furthermore, the experiment will thus allegedly facilitate the lives of patients.
“We believe this is a step toward making patients’ lives better,” says the first author of the paper, Sravan Penchala, who is a doctoral student in Alhamadsheh’s lab.
Their approach might not be restricted to treatment only. According to the co-first-author, Mark Miller, another doctoral student, their technology has broad applications.
“In addition to its promise in treating disease, the new technique also has potential to enhance imaging and diagnostic agents,” says Miller.