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Isle researcher involved in promising cancer find


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POSTED: Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Hawaii cancer researcher and his international colleagues have figured out how to manufacture a molecule with anti-cancer potential.

“;This is important because we can now produce large quantities needed to proceed in developing this drug for animal studies and, hopefully, for clinical studies in patients,”; said Dr. Andre Bachmann, Cancer Research Center of Hawaii professor.

He said German colleagues, led by Markus Kaiser, unraveled the chemical structure of the molecule, syringolin A and B, which will allow them to reproduce it. The findings were reported in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Bachmann and his collaborators in Germany and Switzerland reported in the journal Nature a year ago that they had found a new class of molecules that could block the growth of cancer cells. They are produced by a bacterium that attacks several plants, mainly the green bean plant.

Dr. Robert Dudler of the University of Zurich discovered the molecule in green bean bacteria.

He said Dudler showed him his research during a visit to his native Switzerland in December 2004.

“;I looked at the structure and thought, 'This is interesting.' Basically they are potential anti-cancer cells.”;

Dudler gave him about 3 milligrams of material and with a graduate student he began experiments at the cancer center in January 2005, Bachmann said.

Their tests showed the molecule kills neuroblastoma cells, a cancer of the nerve tissue that affects children, and ovarian cancer cells. Now they're looking at its effect on other types of cancer, such as multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, he said.

The compound inhibits proteasome, a “;large cellular machine”; that works like a garbage disposal, breaking down proteins necessary for cell growth, reproduction and cell death in animals, plants and microorganisms.

“;But this is not just a new drug that inhibits proteasome,”; Bachmann said. “;It does so in a new way and, chemically speaking, it looks completely different than Velcade (the only Food and Drug Administration approved proteasome inhibitor) and other inhibitors found and not FDA approved.”;

He said six classes of proteasome inhibitors have been described.

“;We found a whole new class, considered the seventh class of proteasome inhibitor,”; he said.

Some cancer types may be resistant to Velcade and the potential new drug could be used as an alternative if it works as well or better, Bachmann said.

New variations of syringolin can be developed and modified to increase their anti-cancer efficacy and potency, he said. The team is talking to pharmaceutical companies about further drug development.

Bachmann has filed two patent applications for the UH covering discovery of the anti-cancer syrbactins and their chemical structure.

He said he is leaving May 19 for Switzerland and will work with Dudler in his lab for a week to continue the project.