Artificial sweeteners are used in diet drinks and foods but also could someday be used as treatments targeting carbonic anhydrase IX (CA IX), a protein associated with aggressive cancers. Although several drugs have been approved that target similar forms of CA, they aren’t selective and may cause side effects, including vomiting and fatigue. Now researchers report in ACS’ Journal of Medicinal Chemistry that an artificial sweetener could lead to development of a more selective therapy.
CA IX is a zinc protein that is typically found only in the gastrointestinal tract, but it is overexpressed in cancer tissues and contributes to the growth and spread of malignant cells in lung, brain and breast cancers. But the body produces 14 other forms of CA proteins that are involved in the function of normal, healthy cells. In earlier work, Robert McKenna and colleagues reported that saccharin, the artificial sweetener in Sweet’N Low®, was more selective toward CA IX than other treatments and therefore could be a promising treatment option. But the team wanted to know if another artificial sweetener, acesulfame potassium, would be an even better cancer treatment. Known as ACE K, this sweetener is marketed as Sunett® and Sweet One®
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