New chemistry from tropical corals.It's a long way--geographically and taxonomically--from a shrub in the forests of the Pacific Northwest to a coral on a reef off western Australia Western Australia, state (1991 pop. 1,409,965), 975,920 sq mi (2,527,633 sq km), Australia, comprising the entire western part of the continent. It is bounded on the N, W, and S by the Indian Ocean. Perth is the capital. , but the two share some unusual chemistry. Like the anticancer drug anticancer drug
anticancer drug Chemotherapeutic, see there Taxol, derived from the Pacific yew, a compound manufactured by the rare Eleutherobia coral gums up the internal scaffolding of a cell.
The coral compound, eleutherobin, joins a select class of chemicals known to exert such an effect. Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Scripps Institution of Oceanography: see California, Univ. of. in La Jolla, Calif., and Bristol-Myers Squibb in Princeton, N.J., describe the compound's structure in the Sept. 17 Journal of the American Chemical Society
Eleutherobin is the latest of numerous new drug candidates that have been extracted from marine organisms in recent years (SN: 4/8/95, p. 212; 11/27/93, p. 358). The diverse organisms that have coevolved on a coral reef are prime targets in biochemical prospecting. Many can't flee from predators, so they ward them off with chemicals that may be adapted for therapeutic uses.
So far, eleutherobin has been tested only on human cell lines grown in the laboratory, but it seems to be extremely potent against breast, renal, ovarian, and lung cancer lung cancer, cancer that originates in the tissues of the lungs. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States in both men and women. Like other cancers, lung cancer occurs after repeated insults to the genetic material of the cell. cells, says Fenical. Details of its biological activity are slated for publication in Cancer Research, he adds.
Fenical collected the yellow or red pinkie-size coral on a 1993 trip to study chemical defenses. "We weren't looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. cancer drugs," he says, but a routine screening indicated that something in the corals could kill cells. Corals are a known source of anti-inflammatory agents--one is marketed in a skin cream. Patented in 1995, eleutherobin is licensed to Bristol-Myers Squibb, which markets Taxol.
Eleutherobin's ability to gum up a cell's microtubules Microtubules
Slender, elongated anatomical channels in worms.
Mentioned in: Antihelminthic Drugs and thereby stop it from dividing is a "very intriguing activity," says David J. Newman of the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Md. However, few of the natural compounds that show promise in the lab make it through animal and human testing onto the market. Eleutherobin, says Newman, "has overcome a major hurdle, but it's got a long way to go."
Rarely is a specific natural product of pharmaceutical interest, says Newman: "We're not looking for drugs, we're looking for structures." The basic structure of the AIDS drug AZT AZT or zidovudine (zīdō`vydēn'), drug used to treat patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS; also called , for example, was identified in a sponge, he notes.
Marketability may be a gamble, but the novelty of coral chemistry is a sure bet. Researchers from Vanderbilt University in Nashville and their colleagues report the unusual structure and function of another chemical, from a Caribbean sea whip, in the Sept. 26 Science. That enzyme may be involved in the coral's synthesis of compounds resembling prostaglandins Prostaglandins
Prostaglandins are produced by the body and are responsible for inflammation features, such as swelling, pain, stiffness, redness and warmth. , hormones that exist in minute amounts in people but make up 2 to 3 percent of the coral's dry weight. Their function in coral is unknown.