Deep water sponge could help tackle cancer

sponge cancer

Image credit: Florida Atlantic University, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute

A deep water sponge discovered off the coast of Florida could help in the fight against cancer, new US research speculates.

Scientists at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute found the marine sponge contains a natural product called leiodermatolide.

This can slow the growth of cancer cells and even block some cancer cells from dividing. The compound works even when used in extremely low concentrations.

Some sea sponges have many of the same genes as humans. This means scientists can isolate natural compounds from the organisms to develop medicines useful in the treatment of human diseases.

Tackling pancreatic cancer

The study’s lead author Esther Guzmán found that leiodermatolide can reduce pancreatic cancer tumour size.

There are over 9,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer every year in the UK, with a less than 1% 10-year survival rate. It is the 10th most common cancer in the UK.

Guzmán’s research team has been able to show that leiodermatolide induces programmed cell death in pancreatic cancer cells.

It also inhibits the growth of other cancer cells such as metastatic melanoma, colon cancer, lymphoma, and glioblastoma.

Unique compound needs more research

Because of leiodermatolide’s unique mechanism, its potency and its selectivity for cancer cells, Dr Guzmán says it merits further studies to determine the therapeutic potential for addressing some of the most devastating forms of cancer.

Co-author Amy Wright says the team’s goal for its marine biomedical and biotechnology program is to discover marine natural products that can be used as medicines or tools to better allow them to understand disease processes.

The study was published in the International Journal of Cancer (IJC).


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