‘Modularly-assembled’target drugs developed


TAIPEI, Taiwan — Medical researchers at National Cheng Kung University Hospital have found a new way to produce target drugs that allow physicians to build an optimal combination of “targeting” and “curing” elements based on the characteristics of the cancer under focus, the Tainan-based hospital announced.

Introducing the idea of “smart ammunition, “ the researchers explained that a “modularly assembled” target drug is similar to a smart missile that is made of a targeting unit that can best seek the target under given conditions — whether it should be heat- seeking, infra red targeting, or radar guidance —and an ammunition compartment that can deliver the greatest damage to the designated target — whether it should be standard, armor-piercing or incendiary.

Shieh Dar-bin, an oral disease expert at the hospital, said that individual patients may develop different variances of a cancer, which possess unique cell surface antigens, and show specific conditions that require customized therapy to induce the best curative effects.

To target cancer cells, physicians have to select a targeting module, or “moiety, “ that recognizes the given type of antigen, Shieh said.

To kill the tumorous cells, the physician should select a curing agent that can most efficiently destroy them according to the patients’ condition.

“These factors may not be easily predetermined in the laboratory or the production line,” Shieh noted.

“What we do is to allow greater flexibility for physicians in terms of selecting and using the drugs that can best heal their patients,” Shieh said.

For example, Shieh said, if there are 10 existing targeting modules and 10 available curing agents, a facility capable of combining modularly-assembled target drugs would be able to produce 100 different combinations of drugs.