Compound isolated from sea sponge fights cancer cells


Compound isolated from sea sponge fights cancer cells


Medical researchers have begun looking towards the ocean with hopes of finding novel marine chemicals that could potentially be used to treat human illness.

In 2019, the drug cytarabine celebrated its 50th anniversary – this was the first marine derived drug. The drug was isolated from a marine sponge, and is approved for the treatment of leukaemia.

As of October 2020, nine drugs of marine origin had been clinically approved to treat cancer patients.


Compound kills cancer cells

A team of researchers from Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) in Russia have successfully isolated the compound 3,10-dibromofascaplysin from the sea sponge Fascaplysinopsis reticulata, and continued to chemically synthesise it.

The substance was then tested on various prostate cancer cells including those resistant to chemotherapy. Their findings appear in the journal Marine Drugs.

The team discovered that 3,10-dibromofascaplysin caused the tumour cells to die via a programmed cell death mechanism. They also found that the synthesised compound works successfully in combination with various approved anti-cancer drugs.


An intensively studied compound

Fascaplysin was first isolated from a marine sponge in 1988, and is known today to have antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, antimalarial, and anti-tumour effects.

FEFU researchers published a paper in 2017 which demonstrated that fascaplysin derivatives are able to kill glioblastoma multiforme cells – this is an aggressive form of brain cancer with a poor outlook for patients.

In 2019, several of the same team released a study about a new method they created to synthesise derivatives of fascaplysin. The new method allowed them to obtain a sufficient amount of 3-bromofascaplysin and 3,10-dibromofascaplysin. These compounds were then used for the first syntheses of the alkaloids 14-bromoreticulatate and 14-bromoreticulatine.

The researchers also found that 14-bromoreticulatine selectively affects Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that is resistant to many types of antibiotics. They also reported that 3,10-dibromofascaplysin was able to target metabolic activity of prostate cancer cells.



Moving forward

Later this year, the team hope to report their findings of how 3,10-dibromofascaplysin affects non-cancer cells.

Fascaplysin is limited in its use as a drug as it is highly toxic to healthy cells.

“In our laboratory, we are trying to modify the structure of these compounds in order to reduce their cytotoxic effect on normal cells, while maintaining the necessary anti-tumor effect,” explains Dr. Maxim Zhidkov, head of the Organic Chemistry Department at FEFU’s School of Natural Sciences in Russia.

“The goal is to create a substance for targeted therapy, with a minimum of side effects for healthy cells of the body.”

The researchers speculate that it could take between 10 and 15 years before their work results in the development of a new drug.


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