Home - News - UNN scientists are developing an anti-cancer drug based on spinach

23 May 2017

A team of UNN researchers headed by Professor Alexey Fedorov, Chair of the UNN Department of Organic Chemistry, is working to develop drugs for the treatment of malignant tumors. Such drugs are obtained on the basis of molecules extracted from spinach or spirulina, a type of blue-green algae. 

These plants contain a large amount of chlorophyll, a pigment that stains the chloroplasts of plants in green. The chlorophyll isolated from natural raw materials is modified by using organic chemistry methods. Based on the molecules obtained from this pigment, therapeutic agents are created, explains Professor Fedorov. 

The peculiarity of the preparation obtained from chlorophyll is that its action does not start immediately after it enters the body, it needs to be initiated by interaction with light. The affected area is irradiated, and under the influence of light, the molecule of the preparation generates singlet oxygen and other highly reactive oxygen-containing particles capable of damaging tumor tissues. This method of treatment is known as photodynamic therapy. In this case, the task of researchers is to make the active substance concentrate directly in the tumor to reduce the side effects caused by the chemotherapeutic drug. This is the current challenge facing the research team of the Department of Organic Chemistry, who are working together with their colleagues from the UNN Department of Biophysics and the Ivanovo Chemistry and Technology University to develop highly selective semi-synthetic therapeutic molecules that can be delivered directly to the part of the body affected by the tumor.