A recently formulated drug has been shown to starve cancer cells by targeting the mitochondria or the "power house" of the cell. The mitochondrion is a two-dimensional organelle that is present in most eukaryotic organisms. Cells with mitochondria exist in certain multicellular species.

By inhibiting the reading of genetic material in mitochondria, the compound could in future be used as a possible anticancer drug.

Cancer stem cells are highly dependent on mitochondrial metabolism. Drugs that target mitochondrial functions are usually very toxic, making them difficult to use for cancer treatment. In this drug, researchers believe they may have a significant weapon against cancer because it targets mitochondrial function without severe side effects.

In cooperation with Max Planck Innovation's Lead Discovery Centre, a translational drug discovery company, the research team has developed a high-performance testing tool to classify a chemical compound inhibiting proteins developed from the "POLRMT" gene.

"Killer T cells surround a cancer cell"by National Institutes of Health (NIH) is marked with CC PDM 1.0

POLRMT is a mitochondrial DNA-directed RNA polymerase. The product gene is responsible for the expression of mitochondrial genes and for the supply of RNA primers to initiate mitochondrial genomic replication.

The POLRMT inhibitor greatly reduced the viability of cancer cells and the tumor growth of tumor carrying mice, but was well tolerated in general by animals. the drug can basically starve cancer cells into dying without large toxic side effects, at least for a certain amount of time.

"This provides us with a potential window of opportunity for treatment of cancer," says study author Nina Bonecamp. "Another advantage of our inhibitor is that we exactly know where it binds to POLRMT and what it does to the protein. This is in contrast to some other drugs that are even in clinical use."

The team identified the chemical binding site of the inhibitor and collected structural knowledge using the ACUS Laboratories in Cologne and the Max Planck Center for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen.