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Researchers from Aalto University discover key to making cancer-killing peptides

Researchers from Aalto University have found the mechanism of action for cancer-cell-killing peptides.

This breakthrough is expected to lead to better medication, in particular better treatments for leukemia, skin cancer, and infections caused by multi-resistant bacteria. Thanks to this new knowledge, it is hoped that future medical therapies will be more effective and have far fewer side effects.

The first trials on patients are expected to take place over the next two years and the first finished products should be entering the market ten years from now.

The research has focused on peptides which target and lethally harm cancer cells. Cytotoxic peptides are short chains of amino acids that are able to penetrate and damage the lipid membrane surrounding individual cancer cells. By manipulating this response, researchers hope to cause cancer cells to die off and leave all other cells unharmed.

− Our research has shown that the mechanism by which these life-saving peptides trigger cell-death is similar to that utilized by peptides which are the culprit of certain neurodegenerative diseases, explains Professor Paavo Kinnunen, whose research team at the Department of Biomedical Engineering has made the breakthrough. The mechanism is similar, yet the effects are polar opposites – either beneficial or lethal. Hence, the research results reached by Kinnunen and his team may affect not only the treatment of cancer but also the current understanding of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and their treatment.

Professor Kinnunen and his team have worked on cytotoxic peptides for a number of years. Interest in the topic is shared by research groups in many other universities, and other researchers have been able to confirm results reached by Kinnunen and his team.

For further information, please contact:
Professor Paavo Kinnunen, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Computational Science BECS at Aalto University paavo.kinnunen(at),

tel. +358 50 540 4600

Aalto University is a new multidisciplinary science and art community in the fields of science, economics, and art and design. The new University is founded on Finnish strengths, and its goal is to develop as a unique entity to become one of the world's top universities. Aalto University's cornerstones are its strengths in education and research. At the new University, there are 20,000 basic degree and graduate students as well as a staff of 4,500 of which 340 are professors.

Terhi Arvela, tel. +358 50 569 9410

Terhi Arvela | Aalto University
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