HKBU scholar discovers compound for potential treatment of skin cancer
19 May 2014
Dr Edmond Ma Dik-lung, Assistant Professor of the Department of Chemistry of HKBU, in collaboration with a research team led by Dr Duncan Leung Chung-hang, Associate Professor, Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences of the University of Macau, and experts from Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan, have become the first in the world to successfully develop a novel compound that could potentially be used to treat skin cancer. The study entitled “Antagonising STAT3 Dimerization by a Rhodium(III) Complex” was published in the prestigious chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie (International Edition), and was selected as a “Very Important Paper” by the editors of the journal.
Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) is a signaling protein that is linked to the development of multiple types of cancer in humans, including skin cancer. Dr Ma and his collaborators hypothesised that by blocking the activity of STAT3, a new treatment for skin cancer could potentially be developed. In their study, a rhodium(III) metal complex was discovered from a series of complexes as a potent inhibitor of STAT3 activity. This compound blocked the effects of STAT3 in the living cells of mice bearing xenografts of melanoma, which is the most aggressive and dangerous form of skin cancer in humans. More importantly, the treatment of mice carrying melanoma xenografts with the rhodium(III) complex led to a reduction in tumour size and weight, and reduced the formation of new blood vessels around the tumour site. These results demonstrated that the rhodium(III) complex was able to effectively hinder the growth of melanoma in the mouse model.
Dr Ma said, “This study is important because it shows that by inhibiting the activity of STAT3 in cells, an effective treatment for melanoma could potentially be developed. In addition, our team is the first in the world to utilise a rhodium(III) complex to inhibit STAT3 directly. Our experiments demonstrating the efficacy of the rhodium(III) complex against melanoma in the animal model are a stepping stone towards developing this compound as an anti-cancer agent for potential human use.”