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An early study which has developed a synthetic drug based on a naturally-occurring molecule that has come from a Caribbean sea squirt, an immobile filter feeder invertebrate which is found growing year-round in the shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea.
PharmaMar SA, a Madrid-based marine natural products pharmaceutical company conduct ‘ocean-to-bedside’ drug development, harvesting marine-derived elements for healthcare and treatment purposes. Their first marine-derived drug for cancer, Yondelis, is currently approved in both the EU and Japan, and is used as an anti-tumour agent in the treatment against various forms of cancer by binding to and interfering with cell division.
Marine animals fight daily for both food and survival, and as most cannot use physical violence in order to show dominance or as defence, this war is waged using chemicals. As with plants, many researchers have recognised the potential use of this chemical weaponry in killing bacteria or raging cancer cells.
The research studied ovarian cancer patients which had become resistant to the types of medicine which contained platinum, and treated them using the synthetic drug which was based on the sea squirt’s genetic defence molecules.
“I had always thought that ‘resistant’ or ‘refractory’ were synonyms when used to describe cancer that isn’t responsive to any drug. But not so in the case of patients whose cancer no longer responds to platinum drugs. Patients with platinum-refractory cancer are those whose disease continues to grow whilst receiving a platinum drug. Patients with platinum-resistant cancer are those whose disease progresses within 6 months of cessation of platinum therapy. Therefore, platinum-refractory patients are considered to have a more aggressive form of the disease.” said David Kroll, writing for Forbes magazine.
The drug highlights the value of saving the planet from destruction from pollution and human waste so that we can begin to harvest more of our natural surroundings in a bid to relieve human suffering.