Compound found in octopus ink kills cancer cells but not others

Ozopromide, which is found in octopus ink, could kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones intact. The finding could be used to develop new cancer treatments.

A compound found inside octopus ink has been created artificially in the lab and used to kill cancer cells. The development could eventually lead to new cancer treatments.

A compound found in octopus ink has anti-cancer properties

Martín Samuel Hernández-Zazueta at the University of Sonora in Mexico and his colleagues had previously identified a compound called ozopromide (OPC) that is found in the ink sac of common octopuses (Octopus vulgaris) as one of interest for its anti-cancer properties.

The researchers used a series of standard chemical reactions that allowed them to create the OPC molecule artificially. Next, to explore the potential of OPC as a cancer treatment, they injected the compound into cancerous human breast, cervix, prostate and lung cells.

They found that OPC resulted in the death of a significant portion of the cancerous cells, with the highest proportion being a 50 per cent decrease in cancer growth in lung cells. OPC didn’t affect the nearby non-cancerous cells.

Many current cancer treatments, including immunotherapy, can cause inflammation as an unwanted side effect. The team found that OPC actually reduced the production of inflammatory proteins around the cells, promoting better overall healing from the cell death.

The researchers hope this indicates that the compound could eventually lead to a cancer treatment without inflammation as a side effect.

Charles Derby at Georgia State University in Atlanta says the work is “big deal”. However, it “is just the first step in a long series of steps to determine if this molecule will be useful in human medicine”.

Journal reference

Food and Chemical ToxicologyDOI: 10.1016/j.fct.2023.113829

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