Scientists Create Anti-Cancer Compound From Plants

Tuesday, 06 Aug 2013 11:10 AM

By Nick Tate

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Scientists have perfected a long-sought method to efficiently make a complex anti-cancer agent derived from a plant-based compound, potentially opening the door new lines of drug therapies.
In a new report in the journal Science, medical specialists from Scripps Research Institute said they have been able to come up with a chemical synthesis of ingenol, a complex, plant-derived compound that has promising anti-cancer potential. The achievement will enable scientists to synthesize a wide variety of ingenol derivatives and investigate their therapeutic properties for cancer patients, the researchers said.

It also will allow for more efficient commercial production of ingenol mebutate, an existing anti-cancer drug now commonly used to treat actinic keratosis, a precursor to non-melanoma skin cancer.

“I think that most organic chemists had considered ingenol beyond the reach of scalable chemical synthesis,” said Phil S. Baran, whose laboratory conducted the research.

Ingenol and its derivatives are found in the milky sap of Euphorbia plants, which has long been used in traditional medicine to treat skin lesions.

Studies have shown ingenol mebutate can treat precancerous skin cells and researchers it may be useful in treating other types of cancer.

Baran said the work of his lab could open the door to using other complex natural compounds that may have anti-cancer properties.

"There are many other complex natural compounds waiting to be synthesized using a strategy like ours," he said. "This is really just a glimpse of the future of chemical synthesis.”

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