Many common medications, from pain relievers to cholesterol-reducing statins, stem from natural products that grow on the earth, but there is literally an ocean of compounds yet to be discovered in our seas. Only 14 marine natural products developed are in clinical trials today, Luesch said, and one drug recently approved in Europe is the first-ever marine-derived anticancer agent.
"Marine study is in its infancy," said William Fenical, Ph.D., a distinguished professor of oceanography and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California, San Diego. "The ocean is a genetically distinct environment and the single, most diverse source of new molecules to be discovered."
The history of pharmacy traces its roots back thousands of years to plants growing on Earth's continents, used by ancient civilizations for medicinal purposes, Fenical added. Yet only in the past 30 years have scientists begun to explore the organisms in Earth's oceans, he said. Fewer than 30 labs exist worldwide and research dollars have only become available in the past 15 years.
HDACs are already targeted by a drug approved for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma manufactured by the global pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. Inc. However, UF's compound does not inhibit all HDACs equally, meaning a largazole-based drug might result in improved therapies and fewer side effects, Luesch said.
Since 2006, Luesch and his team of researchers have screened cyanobacteria provided by collaborator Valerie Paul, Ph.D., head scientist at the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce. They check the samples for toxic activity against cancer cells and last year encountered one exceptionally potent extract the one that ultimately yielded largazole.
To conduct further biological testing on the compound, Luesch and his team have been
|Contact: Linda Homewood|
University of Florida