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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Essay on Organic Chemistry and Cure for Cancer

Essay on Organic Chemistry and Cure for Cancer

Cancer is defined as the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells, called malignant cells, in the body. The malignant cells grow out of the normal cells, this happens when the cells divide too quickly or when they “forget” how to die when the body no longer needs them ("Cancer - PubMed Health", 2012).  There are many types of cancer and treatment varies just as well (depending on the type and the stage of the cancer). Throughout the years, research about the treatment of cancer has come to largely depend (although not exclusively) upon experts in the fields of biology, biochemistry and organic chemistry. 

The American Chemical Society defines organic chemistry as the branch of chemistry that is involved with the study of structures, properties and reactions of compounds that contain carbon (par. 1). Organic chemists may be able to fashion new molecules, which when designed carefully, will be able to aid in the treatment of complex illnesses. Organic chemistry in particular may be able to help in determining and modifying the structure of molecules to enhance desired activities and to specify their course of action while lessening undesirable effects at the same time ("Organic Chemistry", n.d., par. 3). As such organic chemistry is found mostly (but not exclusively) in research areas concerned with the development of new drugs to aid in fighting human diseases. 

For example, in Arizona State University’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, one area of research in Organic Chemistry is focused on the development of anticancer drugs that are designed to combat drug resistance by cancer cells (Rose, n.d.). To combat the process of drug resistance by malignant cells, organic chemists are designing enzyme inhibitors that covalently bind to key cellular targets in said cells (such as the proteins involved in cell division). By doing so, interference with the target proteins will be irreversible even though excess drugs are “pumped out” by malignant cells (Rose, n.d.).

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In addition, researchers also synthesize and study the reactivity of new compounds to model electrophiles and evaluate compounds’ efficiency in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells (this is done with the help of some collaborators) (Rose, n.d.). 

Another area of research from the same university focuses on the isolation, structural identification and synthesis of anticancer agents from marine animals, plants and arthropods (Pettit, n.d.) 

Another example of organic chemistry research from another university (University of Utah) focuses on developing a new method to facilitate the delivery of cytotoxic anticancer drugs and fluorescent tumor imaging agents to tumor cells by using vitamin B12 as a decoy delivery vehicle (Grissom, 2011). According to Professor Grissom (2011) the drug- B12 bioconjugates are synthesized by attaching a variety of cytotoxic warheads to cobalmin. The results of this process prove this particular strategy for “targeted drug delivery” as an effective method to increase the therapeutic index of existing anticancer drugs. 

Another research involving the use of organic chemistry, now from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (in Nashville, Tennessee) focuses on research on unsaturated fatty acid oxidation in the context of inflammation and cancer (Marnett, 2012, par. 1). According to their research, the oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids (either enzymatic or nonenzymatic) contributes to the inflammatory response, which is the first line of defense against invading pathogens in the human body, and is highly associated with cellular pathologies. Also, in order to understand the consequences of DNA and protein modification by lipid electrophiles, another area of professor Marnett’s research has focused on the development of molecularly targeted agents to image and ultimately treat cancer (Marnett, 2012). 

 Cited Works

Cancer - PubMed Health. (2012, September 3). National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved December 20, 2012, from
Grissom, C. (2011). Department of Chemistry - The University of Utah. Department of Chemistry - The University of Utah. Retrieved December 20, 2012, from
Marnett, L. (2012, April 41). Inflammation and Cancer: Chemical Approaches to Mechanisms, Imaging, and Treatment. The Journal of Organic Chemistry. Retrieved December 20, 2012, from
Organic Chemistry. (n.d.). American Chemical Society - The world's largest scientific society. Retrieved December 20, 2012, from
Pettit, R. (n.d.). ASU Chemistry & Biochemistry, Arizona State University. ASU Chemistry & Biochemistry, Arizona State University. Retrieved December 20, 2012, from
Rose, S. (n.d.). ASU Chemistry & Biochemistry, Arizona State University. ASU Chemistry & Biochemistry, Arizona State University. Retrieved December 20, 2012, from   

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