Potent cancer drugs made from sea squirts

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Researchers able to synthesize most powerful anti-tumor drug known

In May 2000, researchers at Harvard University announced that they had succeeded in synthesizing a complex anti-tumor drug that is more powerful than any other known drug. The drug, ecteinascidin, is so potent that a mere 11 pounds of it should be enough to satisfy the present world demand for an entire year, Elias J. Corey estimated. “I believe it’s the most complicated molecule ever made on a commercial scale,” said Corey, winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in chemistry, in whose laboratory the compound was first fashioned. Ecteinascidin (ek-TIN-aside-in) is being tested on terminally ill patients suffering with cancers of the blood vessels, tendons, muscles, and other soft tissues. “That’s the most striking result so far,” adds Corey. “There hasn’t been effective chemotherapy for such cancers.”