Successful treatment of cancer with an active ingredient from fungus

With the help of a novel technology, a chemotherapeutic agent was developed from a mushroom from the Himalayas, which is extremely effective and extremely effective in killing cancer cells. An additional benefit of the drug is that it has only minor toxic side effects.

A joint study by the University of Oxford and the biopharmaceutical company NuCana analyzed how a chemotherapy drug derived from fungi works in the treatment of cancer. It was found that the new chemotherapeutic agent, named NUC-7738, is 40 times more effective in killing cancer cells than its actual starting material. The corresponding study was published in the English-language journal “Clinical Cancer Research”.

Mushroom has been used for healing for centuries

The Himalayan mushroom Cordyceps sinensis, which has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, contains the nucleoside analogue cordycepin (which is also known as 3′-deoxyadenosine). However, it is quickly broken down in the bloodstream, so that only a minimal amount of the cancer-killing agent is released to the tumor, the research team explains.

Chemotherapy drug with dramatically improved effectiveness

In order to improve its effectiveness and to clinically test its use as a cancer drug, the researchers at the biopharmaceutical company NuCana have developed cordycepin into a clinical therapy with the help of the new ProTide technology. So they were actually able to create a chemotherapy drug with dramatically improved effectiveness.

Less side effects through treatment

Once in the body, the cordycepin naturally occurring in the fungus must normally be transported into the cancer cells by a nucleoside transporter (hENT1) and converted into the active anti-cancer metabolite (3′-dATP) by a phosphorylating enzyme (ADK), whereby it is broken down quickly in the blood by an enzyme called ADA, the team reports.

These mechanisms, which are related to transport, activation and degradation, mean that the cancer-fighting metabolite does not reach the tumor sufficiently, the experts explain. However, the new drug is 40 times more effective in killing cancer cells than the starting substance and it also leads to fewer toxic side effects.

With the novel ProTide technology, NuCana has developed a therapy that generates high concentrations of the active anti-cancer metabolite 3′-dATP in cancer cells.

What is ProTide technology?

ProTide technology is a novel approach to delivering chemotherapy drugs to cancer cells. Small chemical groups are attached to so-called nucleoside analogues such as cordycepin, which are then metabolized later when they have reached the cancer cells of the person concerned and release the activated drug, explains the team.

This technology has already been used successfully in the antiviral drugs Remsidivir and Sofusbuvir to treat various viral infections such as hepatitis C, Ebola and COVID-19, the researchers report.

Efficacy Against Advanced Solid Tumors?

Ultimately, the experts believe that the results of the study suggest that NUC-7738 has greater cytotoxic activity than cordycepin against a range of cancer cells by overcoming key cancer resistance mechanisms. NUC-7738 is currently being investigated more closely in a clinical phase 1 study. The aim is to determine whether the drug is effective in people with advanced solid tumors when the tumors are resistant to conventional treatment.

The initial results of this study have already shown that NUC-7738 is well tolerated by the participants and that there is encouraging evidence of an anti-cancer effect, the team said. In cooperation with NuCana, further clinical phase 2 studies with the drug are now planned. (as)

Author and source information

This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.


  • University of Oxford: Anti-cancer drug derived from fungus shows promise in clinical trials (veröffentlicht 08.10.2021), University of Oxford
  • Hagen Schwenzer, Erica De Zan, Mustafa Elshani, Ruud van Stiphout, Mary Kudsy, et al.: The novel nucleoside analogue ProTide NUC-7738 overcomes cancer resistance mechanisms in vitro and in a first-in-human Phase 1 clinical trial; in: Clinical Cancer Research (veröffentlicht 08.09.2021), Clinical Cancer Research

Important NOTE:
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.


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