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Synthesis of natural molecule could lead to better anti-cancer drugs
Date:1/23/2008

EVANSTON, Ill. --- In early 2007, Northwestern University chemist Karl Scheidts interest was piqued when marine chemist Amy Wright reported in the Journal of Natural Products that a new natural compound derived from an uncommon deep-sea sponge was extremely effective at inhibiting cancer cell growth.

As a synthetic chemist fascinated by natural products and their potential in medicine, Scheidt knew what he had to do: Make that molecule.

After six months of intense effort, Scheidt, graduate student Daniel Custar and postdoctoral fellow Thomas Zabawa successfully built the molecular structure reported in the paper. Thats when they discovered something strange and unexpected when they compared the spectra, or unique molecular fingerprints, of their structure and that of the natural compound: The spectra did not match, which meant that the structures did not match. Something was wrong.

This story and how the Northwestern team solved the mystery and determined the real structure of neopeltolide, the natural compound derived from the marine sponge, is reported in a paper published in the Jan. 23 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). Knowing neopeltolides structure will help researchers learn how the new compound works, which could lead to new, more-effective anti-cancer drugs.

The reported biological activity of this new natural compound was fantastic -- two to three orders of magnitude more potent for some cancer cells than Taxol, a common chemotherapy drug, said Scheidt, assistant professor of chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. (Taxol also has its origins in nature, having been extracted from the Pacific yew tree.) Synthetic chemists are inspired by such structures. Because of the potential benefits to human health, these are the compounds you want to go after.

Marine sponges cant move and escape predators, and they dont have claws, teeth or quills, so they ha
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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