Florida Keys home to potential colon cancer fighter

A chemical compound made from a type of bacteria in the Florida Keys by a University of Florida researcher has shown effectiveness in fighting colon cancer, according to researchers.

The compound, largazole, inhibits human cancer cell growth in cultures and rodent models by attacking a class of enzymes involved in the packaging and structure of DNA. Although more study is needed, scientists are hopeful that the discovery will lead to new treatments for the roughly 50,000 people struck with colorectal cancer each year in the U.S.

"It is challenging to develop natural marine products into drug therapies due to what is termed the ‘the supply problem,'" says Hendrik Luesch, an associate professor of medicinal chemistry in the UF College of Pharmacy. "We have solved the supply problem for largazole because it has a relatively simple structure, which has made it easy to reproduce in the lab."

Since the discovery, Luesch's lab determined the compound inhibits enzymes known as histone deacetylases, or HDACs, which are linked to many diseases and are increasingly viewed as promising for cancer therapy. Duke University's Jiyong Hong teamed with the UF researchers to chemically reproduce the compound for further preclinical testing, which indicates it is a potent inhibitor of cancer cells that has the right properties to reach its intended target without the toxic side effects of many cancer drugs.

And Luesch believes there are more potential meds out in the oceans. "The marine environment...is still a largely untapped resource for biomedicine. The unique marine biodiversity surely harborsunprecedented chemical structures awaiting discovery," the Florida researchers say in their study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

- see the report from the University of Florida
- read the study in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

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