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New cancer drug ???

alta29's picture
alta29
Posts: 435
Joined: Mar 2005

Last Edited: Tuesday, 06 Feb 2007, 6:09 PM CST
Created: Tuesday, 06 Feb 2007, 5:37 PM CST

Scientists from UT Southwestern Medical Center say they've duplicated a chemical from this sea creature, called the sea squirt, that may target cancer cells without hurting healthy ones. SideBar

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By John Hammarley
4 Your Health
DALLAS --
Scientists from UT Southwestern Medical Center here in Dallas have created a synthetic form of the toxin found in a reclusive creature called the sea squirt that seems to kill cancer cells while leaving our healthy cells alone.

Officially it's called diazona angulata, and it's a transparent donut-shaped creature that lives in underwater colonies off the coast of the Philippines. Scientists think the toxin it uses for protection may turn out to be a radical new cancer-fighting weapon.

"Every discovery starts somewhere, and this discovery started here," said researcher Dr. Steven McKnight of UT Southwestern Medical Center. "And the perspective we have right now is it looks really encouraging."

A team from UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas took the sea squirt's toxin, synthesized it, and tested it against human cancer tumors.

"We've shown that it can actually treat a tumor in the mouse model without any toxicity," said Dr. McKnight.

Here's a really intriguing part of the study: Scientists have long thought that cancer cells, along with healthy cells, travel along the same biological pathways in our bodies.

But in this latest study, the chemists found cancer cells in mice traveled on a completely different highway all by themselves. This makes it a lot easier to target them and avoid healthy cells.

If the discovery works in humans, then traditional chemotherapy which indiscriminately kills both cancerous and healthy cells could be replaced by the "magic bullet" effect of the new substance created by the UT Southwestern chemists.

It's too soon to tell which cancers may be more susceptible to the powers of the drug called diazamanide. But, Dr. McKnight is hopeful.

"We need another year or two of rigor to see if we missed something, because right now it looks too good to be true," he said. "But if it's true that it's impeding the division of cancer cells selectively, this is really exciting."

Even if all the pieces fall into place at the right time, human testing with this substance probably won't start for another 18 months, according to Dr. McKnight.

There is one more interesting twist to this discovery: scientists returned to the site where they originally found the sea squirt, and they can't find any trace of it anywhere.

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kerry's picture
kerry
Posts: 1317
Joined: Jan 2003

There are always new things coming down the pipeline of research. I just ask my doctor to keep me around until the cure is found! (or I'm too old to care)

Now we need to find those little allusive sea squirts!

sur5er
Posts: 4
Joined: Oct 2006

A follow-up report said that researchers went back to the location of the original siting, but they could find no evidence of the little squirts. Nobody seems to know what happened or where they went, but since the researchers aleady have a synthetic form, they don't really NEED to find the original creatures to build on their research.

They also stated that it would be at least 18 months of further study before any attempt at clinical trials would be able to be conducted. They also have not mentioned any specific type(s) of cancer that would be targeted by any drug that was developed.

Sounds really promising, but so have LOTS of other drugs in the past. Maybe this one will continue to show promise and hopefully a means of treatment for all of us.

scouty's picture
scouty
Posts: 1976
Joined: Apr 2004

Hey Sponger,

You're our resident offshoreman that keeps the seas safe for fishes. Where have you hidden the sea aquirts?

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