JUN 17, 2019 6:45 AM PDT

Breakthrough Synthesis Advances Potent Anti-Cancer Agent

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

What is now known as a "landmark in drug discovery", Harvard chemists have succeeded in synthesizing halichondrin, found naturally in sea sponges and is known to be a potent anti-cancer agent in mouse studies, was first identified 33 years ago.

"At that time, they realized the halichondrins looked exceedingly potent," recalls Takashi Owa, PhD, Chief Medicine Creation Officer and Chief Discovery Officer for Eisai's oncology business group, and a coauthor of the paper. Over time, NCI investigators testing tiny amounts of it recognized that it was affecting the formation of microtubules, which are essential to cell division. "Due to the very unique structure of the natural product, many people were interested in the mode of action, and the investigators wanted to do a clinical study," Owa explains, "but a lack of drug supply prevented them from doing it. So 30 years have passed, very unfortunately, but Prof. Kishi is a pioneer in this field."

In collaboration with the Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai, researchers have synthesized sufficient amount of E7130, a drug candidate from the halichondrin class, and were able to perform studies on the biological activity of the drug along with pharmacological properties for potential therapies.

"In 1992, it was unthinkable to synthesize a gram-quantity of a halichondrin," says Yoshito Kishi, Morris Loeb Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, in Harvard's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, "but three years ago we proposed it to Eisai. Organic synthesis has advanced to that level, even with molecular complexity that was untouchable several years ago. We are very delighted to see our basic chemistry discoveries have now made it possible to synthesize this compound at large scale."

The drug is currently being tested Phase I clinical trial in Japan as a novel agent for targeting the tumor microenvironment, under a license from Harvard's Office of Technology Development (OTD) to Eisai.

"The collaboration between scientists at Eisai and Harvard is an example of academia and industry working together successfully to accelerate the development of a new class of therapeutics that may address important unmet medical needs," says Vivian Berlin, Managing Director of Strategic Partnerships in Harvard OTD. "The collaborative spirit and transparency of the relationship contributed enormously to the success of the project."

Source: Harvard University

About the Author
  • Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
You May Also Like
JAN 16, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Scientists Discover Contents of an Ancient Mayan Drug Containers
JAN 16, 2021
Scientists Discover Contents of an Ancient Mayan Drug Containers
Washington State University researchers found a non-tobacco plant in containers of an ancient Maya drug. "While it ...
FEB 11, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Antibiotic-Use During Pregnancy
FEB 11, 2021
Antibiotic-Use During Pregnancy
A study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, shows that fetal exposure to antibiotics in mid to late pregn ...
MAR 09, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Top Benefits of Having Your Medical Marijuana Card
MAR 09, 2021
Top Benefits of Having Your Medical Marijuana Card
With the use of medicinal marijuana booming, estimated at almost 4.5 million patients in 2020, it’s time to talk a ...
MAR 21, 2021
Microbiology
Potent Drug Rapidly Clears Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea in Mouse Model
MAR 21, 2021
Potent Drug Rapidly Clears Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea in Mouse Model
A mouse model has shown that it's possible to clear a multi-drug resistant gonorrhea with only one dose of antibioti ...
MAR 03, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Keeping HIV Latent
MAR 03, 2021
Keeping HIV Latent
When (HIV) human immunodeficiency virus infects cells, it can go to sleep as opposed to make viral copies of itself&mdas ...
APR 01, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Injection Treats Childhood Blindness
APR 01, 2021
Injection Treats Childhood Blindness
A patient with a genetic-based childhood blindness has gained vision after receiving an experimental RNA therapeutic tre ...
Loading Comments...