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Bat plant compound isolated with potency of Taxol for cancer treatment

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
UT Health researchers isolate compounds in the bat plant kill cancer cells.

The bat plant, or Tacca chantrieri, may hold a secret for eradicating cancers, without hurting normal healthy cells.

Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio have found compounds in the bat plant called taccalonolides that interact directly with microtubules within cells.

Taccalonolides act like microtubule stabilizers to prevent cancer cells from replicating. An example is the cancer drug Taxol that can become ineffective from resistance.

The research team has been working on finding an option to Taxol with the same potency.

Lead study author Susan Mooberry, Ph.D., head of the Experimental Development Therapeutics Program at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center and a professor of pharmacology at the UT Health Science Center said, "We've been working with these for years with some good results, but never with the potency of Taxol.

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Now we have that potency, and we also show for the first time the taccalonolides' cellular binding site.”

In cancer cells, the bat plant compound stabilizes microtubules, but doesn’t interfere with the function of normal cells.

Dr. Mooberry said. "We've run normal prostate cells and normal breast cells through these tests, and they don't die. The taccalonolides selectively kill cancer cells."

Until now scientists didn’t know how the compounds work. The UT team is the first to show how taccalonolides interact directly with microtubules.

The finding, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, shows how the compounds from the bat plant work to help kill cancer cells. The chemotherapy drug Taxol was developed from the Yew species.

Image credit: Wikimedia commons
Attribution: Meneerke bloem