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Sea sponges to the rescue!

  • Researcher: Dr Paul Teesdale-Spittle
  • Institution: Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Award Amount: £170,142 from 1st June 2015 for 3 years
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
Sea sponges to the rescue!
Dr Paul Teesdale-Spittle is investigating whether special sea sponges hold the secret to killing cancer cells.  He told us “Many cancers develop and progress because of their use of proteins that encourage the development of cancer.  These proteins are also associated with resistance to therapy.  New research has revealed a mechanism that cells use to regulate the production of these pro-cancer proteins.  At the heart of this regulatory mechanism is a protein called eIF4A (eukaryotic initiation factor 4A).” He continued “There are three classes of compound known to block/inhibit eIF4A.  Strikingly, their use at very low levels safe to use in animals and it selectively stops the production of key proteins associated with aggressive cancers.  It also stops the muscle wasting which is attributed to 20-30% of all cancer deaths. The most potent of the three known compound classes that inhibit eIF4A is pateamine.  Pateamine is a natural product only found in sponges that grow in coastal waters of New Zealand.  Global supply of the natural product is therefore very limited.  We will provide more of the natural product by collecting and culturing sponges and a man-made form through chemical reactions in the lab.  This will allow us to provide active compounds to progress global research efforts into eIF4A inhibition and to begin pre-clinical work, with a particular focus on lymphoma, melanoma, breast and ovarian cancers.  We will also try to improve on Mother Nature by making modified forms of pateamine that will be tested to see if they show even greater clinical potential.”
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