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FACT SHEET: RESEARCH TRIANGLE INSTITUTE'S DISCOVERY OF 'TAXOL'

 FACT SHEET: RESEARCH TRIANGLE INSTITUTE'S DISCOVERY OF 'TAXOL'
 Research Triangle Institute today released the following taxol fact sheet:
 Taxol Discovery
 Taxol was discovered at Research Triangle Institute nearly 25 years ago when Dr. Monroe Wall and Dr. M.C. Wani isolated the compound from the Pacific yew tree, Taxus brevifolia, and noted its antitumor activity in a broad range of rodent tumors.
 By 1970, the two RTI scientists had determined the structure of taxol, which they found to be extremely complex. RTI's research on taxol is funded by the National Cancer Institute.
 History
 Interest in taxol waned for nearly a decade after its discovery. During that time, Dr. Wall and Dr. Wani continued to urge pursuit of the broad spectrum of antitumor activity they had observed with taxol.
 In 1980, Dr. Susan Horwitz at Albert Einstein Medical College and her associates determined that taxol has a unique mechanism of action, making it the prototype for a new class of cancer chemotherapeutic agents. (Taxol binds tubulin, thereby inhibiting cell division.) This discovery renewed interest in taxol, and NCI made a considerable effort to obtain larger quantities of taxol for clinical trials.
 Striking clinical results in treating women with advanced ovarian cancer were reported by Dr. William McGuire of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the "Annals of Internal Medicine" in 1989. Since then, oncologists have reported activity of taxol in treating breast and lung cancers. Dr. Samuel Broder, director of NCI, has hailed taxol as the most important new cancer drug in the past 15 years.
 Current Research
 Because of its complex structure, a total synthesis cannot currently produce taxol in quantity. The only current source of taxol is the bark of the Pacific yew, and to treat one patient requires the harvest of six, 100-year-old trees. The tree is sparsely distributed, and many are in northwest forests, where logging is restricted to protect the habitat of the spotted owl. Demand for taxol and its limited supply have led scientists around the world to search for ways to increase the supply. These include extracting taxol from the yew tree's needles (which contain a fraction of the taxol found in bark) and producing it in tissue cultures.
 NCI has assigned Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. rights to taxol, and both the company and NCI are conducting research to determine the full extent of taxol's effectiveness. NCI recently awarded RTI and John Hopkins University a three-year contract to study the human metabolism of taxol.
 Research Triangle Institute
 RTI is an independent contract research organization. Its staff of 1,500 conducts research on public health, medicine, the environment, social issues, and advanced technology. Founded in December 1958, RTI has annual research revenues of more than $112 million.
 Natural Products Chemistry at RTI
 RTI has been involved in natural products chemistry since 1960, and today has a drug discovery program that includes computer-aided drug design and synthetic chemistry.
 The anti-cancer drugs camptothecin and taxol are the most prominent discoveries by RTI's natural products program.
 CONTACT: Karen Lauterbach, Media Relations Coordinator, 919-541-5960, or Reid Maness, Senior Manager, Communications, 919-541-7044, both of Research Triangle Institute.
 -0- 3/24/92


CO: Research Triangle Institute ST: North Carolina IN: MTC SU:

CM -- CH001 -- 1004 03/24/92 11:27 EST
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Date:Mar 24, 1992
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