Like discriminating thieves, prostate cancer tumors scavenge and hoard copper that is an essential element in the body. But such avarice may be a fatal weakness. Researchers at Duke Medicine have found a way to kill prostate cancer cells by delivering a trove of copper along with a drug that selectively destroys the diseased cells brimming with the mineral, leaving non-cancer cells healthy. The combination approach, which uses two drugs already commercially available for other uses, could soon be tested in clinical trials among patients with late-stage disease.

“This proclivity for copper uptake is something we have known could be an Achilles’ heel in prostate cancer tumors as well as other cancers,” said Donald McDonnell, Ph.D., chairman of the Duke Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology and senior author of a study published Oct. 15, 2014, in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association of Cancer Research.

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