This sponge offers greater hope in cancer treatment

Wellington, July 7 (IANS) A marine sponge found in a small corner of New Zealand could provide a breakthrough in fighting certain types of cancers, New Zealand researchers said on Tuesday.

A chemical agent found in the sponge mycale henscheli, found mostly in the Pelorus Sound in the north of the South Island, had shown promising tumour-inhibiting properties compared with existing plant and bacterial-based therapies, Xinhua news agency reported citing Victoria University’s scientists.

One pre-clinical trial on lung cancer cells showed tumour growth inhibition greater than 90 percent with the agent, peloruside A, compared with results of 53 percent and 19 percent for two current anti-cancer drugs, professor John Miller said in a statement.

A similar pre-clinical trial on cells of a different type of lung cancer showed inhibitions of tumour growth ranging between 50 percent and 74 percent, compared to 44 percent and 50 percent with the alternatives.

Tests were also conducted on breast cancer cells, with the results suggesting better toleration of peloruside A than the clinically used drugs.

“Although additional research is required, the pre-clinical results certainly suggest that peloruside A is highly effective in preventing the growth of lung and breast tumors,” Miller said.

“In some cases, there was even a decrease in tumour volume.”

The research also indicated that peloruside A might provide an answer to the growing problem of the acquired resistance of some tumours to current medications.

The results gave strong support for further trials, but advancing clinical studies was challenged due, in part, to a limited supply of the marine sponge.

Efforts were under way to provide enough material, either from aquaculture or large-scale chemical synthesis, to commence human trials.

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