Marine Drug Discovery Home
Tara P. Pitts
Nearly everyone has had their life touched by cancer, the more than 100 diseases having in common the property of uncontrolled cell growth. According to the American Cancer Society, one out of every three Americans will have some form of cancer during their lifetime. While new treatments and early detection have improved the odds of survival, the discovery of new medicines that selectively target the various forms of cancer is still urgently needed.
Marine natural products from the HBOI-CMBBR library are tested to determine if they can kill cancer cells, stop cancer cells from dividing, or change the amount or activity of key molecules that confer cancer cells their malignant characteristics. Flow cytometry, confocal microscopy and other techniques are then used to determine how they cause those effects.
This effort has identified over 100 natural products with cancer fighting properties. Discodermolide, leiodermatolide, aphrocallistin, dictyostatin and neopeltolide block cells from dividing. Manzamine A targets the protein GSK3β reducing the invasiveness and resistance to programmed cell death of pancreatic cancer. Four different natural products target NFκB, an important mediator of inflammation which has a strong link with cancer. Some compounds are under evaluation by pharmaceutical companies for their potential use as drugs.
Our current focus is to look for treatments for pancreatic cancer, the fifth cause of cancer death in the US. A future focus is to find compounds that target cancer stem cells, which are responsible for the recurrence of tumors after a patient is thought to be cured.