Cancer cell-selective killing polymer/copper combination†
Chemotherapy has been adopted for cancer treatment for decades. However, its efficacy and safety are frequently compromised by the multidrug-resistance of cancer cells and the poor cancer cell selectivity of anticancer drugs. Hereby, we report a combination of a pyridine-2-thiol containing polymer and copper which can effectively kill a wide spectrum of cancer cells, including drug resistant cancer cells, while sparing normal cells. The polymer nanoparticle enters cells via an exofacial thiol facilitated route, and releases active pyridine-2-thiol with the help of intracellularly elevated glutathione (GSH). Due to their high GSH level, cancer cells are more vulnerable to the polymer/copper combination. In addition, RNA microarray analysis revealed that the treatment can reverse cancer cells’ upregulated oncogenes (CIRBP and STMN1) and downregulated tumor suppressor genes (CDKN1C and GADD45B) to further enhance the selectivity for cancer cells.