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Molecules in sponges Wonder weapon against certain forms of cancer?
More than a decade ago, a green sponge about the size of a golf ball was discovered in the deep, icy waters of Alaska. Researchers have now found that a sponge molecule is able to selectively kill malignant cells from pancreatic cancer and ovarian cancer.
Scientists at the Henry Ford Cancer Institute in Detroit and the Medical University of South Carolina found that a small green sponge from the Alaskan waters could help treat pancreatic and ovarian cancer in the future. The doctors released a press release on the results of their study.
Chances of survival in pancreatic cancer are only around 14 percent after five years
The results are a sensation because there are only a few treatments available for pancreatic cancer. The experts now hope to be able to secure additional resources to produce a synthetic version of the molecule and to carry out further studies. In the United States alone, approximately 53,000 people develop pancreatic cancer each year, and in the UK there are approximately 9,600 people. The disease often causes no symptoms in the early stages, making early diagnosis difficult. There are also few chemotherapy drugs that have an effect on the tumor, the authors explain. The survival chances of the patients after five years are only 14 percent.
Ovarian cancer could also be treated with the sponge's molecules
Ovarian cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women. This type of cancer mainly affects women who have already passed their menopause. However, sometimes younger women can also fall ill, the researchers say. In this type of cancer, the sponge's molecules were also able to kill the malignant cells.
Molecule in sponge is unique in its composition
The sponge is called Latrunculia austini and was discovered in 2005. It lives at a depth of 70 to 220 meters and it is likely that the sponge has its special composition because it had to adapt to the cold, dark habitat, the scientists explain. The molecule in the sponge is really unique structurally and chemically. The experts add that it is not like any molecule found so far.
So far, only a sponge with comparable properties has been found
"We have studied 5,000 sponge extracts in the past two decades," the researchers report, and with regard to the particular pattern of selective activity against ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer, only one sponge with such activity has been found so far. This sponge came from Indonesia.
Where can you find the special sponge?
Latrunculia austini lives in an area that stretches from the Gulf of Alaska to the coast off the state of Washington. Although this area has been protected from the effects of trawling since 1996, the researchers fear that the protective measures are insufficient. The discovery of this green sponge is another indication of the untapped potential of the ocean in life-saving medical discoveries, the study's authors explain. (as)