A chemical compound made from a type of bacteria discovered in the Florida Keys appears to be effective in fighting colon cancer in preclinical experiments.
The compound—known as largazole because it was first found near Key Largo—inhibits human cancer cell growth in cultures and rodent models by attacking a class of enzymes involved in the packaging and structure of DNA.
Details are published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.
Researchers believe the discovery will lead to new treatment for the roughly 50,000 people in the United States who get colorectal cancer each year.
In addition to having the marine bacteria as a natural source of the chemical, scientists have also been able to synthetically produce it.
“It is challenging to develop natural marine products into drug therapies due to what is termed the ‘the supply problem,’” says Hendrik Luesch, associate professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Florida.
“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.”
The compound was discovered in 2008 when researchers were investigating samples of bacteria from the Florida Keys.