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Scientists Discover Soil-Based Anticancer Drugs

Dec 23, 2016 05:20 AM EST
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Scientists from the Florida campus of the Scripps Research Institute have discovered an efficient process to discover new "enediyne natural products" from soil microbes. This could further be developed into extremely potent anticancer drugs.

According to Phys.org, the study highlights the role of microbial natural products as abundant sources of new drug leads. The discovery involves prioritizing microbes from the TSRI strain collection and focuses on ones that are genetically predisposed to produce specific families of said products.

TSRI professor Ben Shen, the lead author of the study, said this process saves time and resources versus the traditional approaches used to identify these rare molecules.

According to Eurekalert, then and his team uncovered a new family of enediyne natural products that are called tiancimycins or TNMs that can kill selected cancer cells more rapidly and completely versus toxic molecules used in FDA-approved antibody-drug conjugates.

These are monoclonal antibodies attached to cytotoxic drugs that target only cancer cells.

According to Phys.org, the scientists have also discovered new producers of C-1027, which is an antitumor antibiotic currently in clinical development, which can produce C-1027 at very higher levels.

It's been more than a decade since Shen first reported on the C-1027 enediyne biosynthetic machinery, and he even speculated then that the knowledge obtained from studying biosynthesis of C-1027 and other enediynes could be used to discover new natural products.

Shen's method of strain prioritization and genome mining is a more efficient use of resources in the discovery process, as this only involves strains that produce the most important natural compounds.

David Newman, retired chief of the National Cancer Institute's Natural Products Branch, said Shen's work is an excellent example of what could be achieved by the novel technology. This means the number of enediynes that could be discovered have significantly increased. 

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