Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have synthesized a new compound--similar to one produced naturally by a species of sea squirt--that shows exciting results in tests as a cancer treatment. The compound, called AB-5, is a variant of diazonamide A, a toxin produced by Diazona angulata.
What's truly exciting about AB-5 was that, in the initial tests, the compound worked as effectively as existing cancer treatments (paclitaxel and vinblastine) without their side effects of weight loss or reduced white blood cell counts. The AB-5 appears to be very selective in how it affects cells, attacking only cancerous cells.
The reason, the researchers say, is that in cancerous cells, an enzyme known as OAT is necessary for cell mitosis, but the enzyme is not necessary for regular, healthy cells. The AB-5 somehow interacted with the OAT, preventing it from being uses as part of cell mitosis for cancer cells, and thus blocking the cancer cells from reproducing.
The results are preliminary so far, and only tested in mice, but the researchers felt strongly enough about the results to license the research from UT Southwestern and start their own pharmaceutical company, Joyant Pharmaceuticals. I'll be watching this development closely, so stay tuned for future updates.