Scientists Discover Method to Produce Better Drugs for Parkinson's, Cancer, and Other Diseases

Northeastern University scientists created a rapid method to produce an important faculty of drugs, including drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease and cancer. The efficient and versatile process gives access to new medicinal agents by combining molecules that are important building blocks in creating unique compounds. The paper describing the breakthrough method of synthesis of the new drugs, which are designed to be combined with the traditionally used Parkinson’s disease treatment drug Levodopa, appeared in the latest issue of Tetrahedron Letters.

Lead author Graham B. Jones (left), Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and his co-authors Michail Sitkovsky (right), Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Amy E. Kallmerten and Ma Dong, all from the Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Laboratories and the New England Inflammation and Tissue Protection Institute at Northeastern, discussed in the paper the process which eliminates the need for external oxidants and provides direct access to drug compounds of more than 16 analogs used to treat Parkinson’s disease among others.

The team’s method entails creating multiple chemical reactions in a single operation using microwave radiation.

“This breakthrough discovery is a significant step on the way to more efficient treatments for a variety of serious diseases, including Parkinson’s, and our results will be instrumental in stimulating more drug development research in many different areas of medicine” said Jones, who is also the Associate Director for the Barnett Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis at Northeastern.

“This interdisciplinary collaboration started with our team proposing a novel method to improve cancer immunotherapy and we ultimately created a method to respond to the novel medical need for better antagonists of A2A adenosne receptors, which have become major targets in drug discovery research aimed at treating central nervous system disorders,” said Sitkovsky.

“We are excited about providing the medical research community with unrestricted access to our process and findings. And we are proud to be able to contribute to ongoing efforts to improve the lives of those who suffer from these debilitating diseases,” added Jones.

The paper titled “Synthesis of 8-substituted xanthines via 5,6-diaminouracils: an efficient route to A2A adenosine receptor antagonists” discusses the innovative method.

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Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research university located in the heart of Boston. Northeastern is a leader in interdisciplinary research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. The university’s distinctive cooperative education program, where students alternate semesters of full-time study with semesters of paid work in fields relevant to their professional interests and major, is one of the largest and most innovative in the world. The University offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs leading to degrees through the doctorate in six undergraduate colleges, eight graduate schools, and two part-time divisions. For more information, please visit