New Discovery in Marine Sponge May Lead to a New Ovarian Cancer Treatment

We tend to daydream about miracle cures for rare and detrimental conditions like ovarian cancer. Sometimes they exist, but often it’s more of a battle to find the right combination of therapies to improve outcomes for patients.

A new discovery has just been made by researchers working at the Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. for ovarian cancer. While not a cure, scientists believe it has the potential work well with treatments already out there, improving the effects of other discoveries.

The finding

This discovery lies in a marine sponge, found on the ocean floor off of the coast of Japan.

Researchers found that this particular sponge carries the toxin called mycalolide B. When cancer cells were exposed to this toxin, they retracted. This limited the cancers ability to spread.

This finding could be particularly meaningful for ovarian cancer because it often spreads so quickly that it is at a very advanced stage before the patient is even diagnosed.

Ovarian isn’t the only cancer this team is studying however. Potentially, this toxin could be used to treat a wide array of different metastatic cancers in combination with other therapies.

The complications

The first problem with this toxin is that it doesn’t distinguish between healthy cells and cancerous cells. Since both types of cells have the same proteins, the toxin has the same detrimental affect on healthy cells that we want it to have for the cancer.

To combat this issue, researchers are working to produce a version of the toxin which only targets cancer cells.

This work is being completed in a lab, which is also a solution to the toxin’s second issue. Unfortunately, the sponges are very scarce so harvesting them is not really an option. This action could have extreme effects on the ecosystem and scientists say it would be irresponsible to take the sponges knowing this.

But, by synthetically making the toxin in a lab, they would avoid this issue.

Researchers believe this project may take them five to six years.

There’s a lot more to still be done concerning this new discovery, but the finding in and of itself is exciting for the rare community. Every bit of research is a step in the right direction for improving patient lives.

You can read more about this new discovery here.


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