Ancient algae offers new hope for hard-to-treat cancers

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April 21, 2016

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Ancient algae offers new hope for hard-to-treat cancers

Jane Ishamel, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology at Oregon State University, found that a new compound produced by an ancient species of algae, coibamide A, may have potent anti-cancer activities.

Ishamel, an American Brain Tumor Association Research Network member, presented this research at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Annual Meeting during Experimental Biology 2016.

Coibamide A was discovered eight years ago by scuba-diving scientist Kerry McPhail, Ph.D., of Oregon State University and a new study shows coibamide A has potent anti-cancer activity in mice and cell cultures that model brain tumors.

McPhail collected the algae during a dive in Panama’s Coiba National Park. It turned out to be a combination of at least three algal species that grow together on rocks in areas with fast-moving water. Blue-green algae has existed for at least two billion years and are one of the oldest life forms on Earth.

Coibamide A was found when the original algal specimen was run through a National Cancer Institute screening system that looks for potential anti-cancer activity across 60 different types of cancer. Coibamide A showed a pattern of activity unmatched by any other compound, suggesting it might be able to fight cancer through a mechanism of action unlike that of any existing drug.

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