Marine Biotechnologists Treat Cancer With Mud-loving Ocean Bacteria
Biomedicine scientists identified and sequenced the genes of a bacteria called Salinispora tropica. It produces anti-cancer compounds and can be found in ocean sediments off the Bahamas. A product called salinosporamide A has shown promise treating a bone marrow cancer called multiple myeloma, as well as solid tumors.
It’s estimated that over 1.4 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and for more than 500,000 it will be fatal. But now, scientists have found a new weapon against it. The ocean! You run in it … play in it … splash in it … but what’s found at the bottom of it can kill cancer!
“This bacteria makes a really potent anti cancer agent,” Bradley Moore, Ph.D., marine biochemist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, Calf., told Ivanhoe.
The bacterium was discovered in 1991, but just recently researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography unlocked the genomic sequence, revealing this bacteria’s cancer fighting potential.
“That’s how new drugs are discovered. We really have to go out there and grow bacteria, look at the genomes,” Dr. Moore said. “What we’ve recently been able to do is take the enzymes out of the cell, put them in a test tube, and then play God and manipulate these enzymes and make new chemistry.”
And make new drugs. “There’s a major search underway for better drugs to treat cancer and one way to find these new medicines is to look to nature,” Paul Jensen, Ph.D., associate research scientist at Scipps Institution of Oceanography, told Ivanhoe.
And unlike most of the drugs used to fight cancer today — this bacterium is not found on land.
“When you look at a globe … there’s more blue than there is land,” said Dr. Moore.
Revealing that our oceans maybe an even more valuable resource than we realize. A clinical trial is already underway. A San Diego pharmaceutical company is using it to treat patients that have a form of bone marrow cancer — and it could soon be tested to treat other cancers.