"Unlike antibodies, however, our molecules are synthetic organic compounds that are approximately one-twentieth the size of antibodies," said David A Spiegel, a professor of chemistry at the Yale University in US.
"They are unlikely to cause unwanted immune reactions due to their structure, are thermally stable, and have the potential to be administered orally, just like traditional, small-molecule drugs," said Spiegel.
Researchers looked specifically at SyAM molecules used to attack prostate cancer. Called SyAM-Ps, they work first by recognising cancer cells and binding with a specific protein on their surface. Next, they also bind with a receptor on an immune cell. This induces a targeted response that leads to the destruction of the cancer cell.
Spiegel said the process of synthesising and optimising the structure of the molecules required considerable time and effort."We now know that synthetic molecules of intermediate size possess perhaps the most important functional properties of antibodies - targeting and stimulation of immune cells," he said.
Beyond their potential for treating prostate cancer, SyAMs may have applications for treating other forms of cancer, HIV and various bacterial diseases, researchers said. The research was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.