Marine Topic Of The Week, 01/05/07-01/12/07 Pet of the Month
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Hug a mod Nano Reef Moderator
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Dec 27, 2004
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Long Island, NY
The word cancer is one of the most frightening words we can hear. In the year 2007, we still don't understand many things about the biology and physiology of many types of cancer cells. As a physician, I can tell you that it seems odd that we sometimes have to poison the entire human body in an effort to eradicate the unwelcome visitor to our bodies. Someday, future scientists will look back with astonishment when the key to the cure is found. However, there are many cancers that CAN be cured, or, even held at bay for years or decades thanks to the research done to find new treatments.

An Uphill Battle

If you look at statistics, finding a successful new chemotherapeutic agent is an uphill battle. Cancer cells are normal cells that have lost control of their growth and orderliness. A new treatment must be able to selectively kill a cancer cell while leaving a healthy cell 'viable'. Targets for a cancer cell could include it's DNA, RNA, or blood supply among many others. Look at some statistics:

  • [*] Failure rate of all preclinical drug candidates: >> 99.9%
    [*] Failure rate of preclinical anticancer natural product candidates, through 1981: (natural product = a discrete chemical that is extracted from a living organism)
    [*] Failure rate of all Phase I drug candidates: ~ 30%
    [*] Failure rate of all Phase II drug candidates: ~ 50%
    [*] Failure rate of all Phase III drug candidates: ~ 50%
    [*] Failure after marketing: ~ 10%
    [*] It costs about $1.2 billion in current dollars to develop a new drug, from discovery to commercialization .

One Success

The Pacific Yew tree yielded the chemical called Taxol, Taxus brevifolia and is used in the fight against breast, ovarian and lung cancer.


Possibilities from Your Tank?

At the present time, there seem to be approximately 22 marine organisms under study for possible use in the fight against cancer. Could they be in your marine tank? Just a few to learn about for now:

Ecteinascidin 743

Ecteinascidin 743 comes from the tunicate Ecteinascidia turbinata , also known as a sea squirt. This sea squirt is a filter feeder and is commonly found in the Mediterranean and Carribbean. The extract is promising with breast, non-small cell lung and ovarian cancers.



Auristatin is a synthetic chemical that is fabricated based on Dolastatin 10. Dolastatin 10 was originally isolated from the Indian Ocean sea hare, Dolabella auricularia, a common algae eater that you can buy in marine circles. In addition to the above cancers, it is promising against myeloid leukemia.



E7389 is the name given to a synthesized derivative of the sponge isolate halichondrin B. Halichondrin B is obtained from Halichondria okadai and from other sponge species including an Axinella sp., Phakellia carteri , Lisodendoryx sp. , sponges that are found from various oceans around the world.



Bryostatin is obtained from the bryozoan Bugula neritina. Huge amounts were needed to be used in initial studies and findings show that, alone, it's results were not promising but when combined with other chemotherapeutic agents, there was hope.



Eleutherobin was initially obtained from coral in Australian waters but this was ended for political reasons. The same chemical was then able to be obtained from the Caribbean gorgonian Erythropodium caribaeorum. This drug in combination with Taxol seems to have succesful results in causing cellular death in various cancer lines.



As with all our discussions here on TFF, consideration will always go back to ecological concerns:
-will harvesting these organisms devastate their populations?
-will removal have an impact on other species?
-what is the risk/benefit to the marine environment when it comes saving human lives?

Food for thought.

De nada....just trying to keep our site interesting. SH
wow thats some pretty interesting stuff I never would have though and I love the whole biology. I never knew u were physian either steelhair thats really neat. I hope to be a dentist some day after I go to college thanks for keeping the fourm interesting. dave
No problem Dave. Good luck on your journey to being a dentist. Medicine is a tough place to be right now. We have a lot of issues to deal with between HMO's, reimbursement, public view of us and malpractice premiums. This site is really a great website. SH
No problem Dave. Good luck on your journey to being a dentist. Medicine is a tough place to be right now. We have a lot of issues to deal with between HMO's, reimbursement, public view of us and malpractice premiums.

AMEN, big reason why I pursued a career in research as opposed to medicine right there SH. Good luck to ya :good:
Why is malpractice insurance so expensive anyways? aren't accidents kinda rare for doctors getting sued? I want to be a dentist to combine me two passions helping people and science. Dave
Well Dave, not sure if you're a US resident or not cause the answer changes dramatically depending on your country of origin.

Long story short, malpractice cases have skyrocketed in large part due to the increasingly litigious nature of our society. In a country and era where someone can sue a business because their coffee was too hot, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that people sue doctors because their diagnoses, treatments, perscriptions etc may not help or even hurt a patient regardless of that doctor's best intentions. The good news for you Dave, dental malpractice insurance is significantly cheaper, mostly because dental procedures are not exactly life and death situations ;).

But we digress from the thread at hand, lets try to not turn SH's wonderful knoledge into a circus show :good:
I would hope that the harvesting of these organisms from the wild would only go on until they can find a way to synthesize the organic molecules needed to construct the chemicals found in the living tissue. I have work in the pharmaceutical industry for about 3 years and in that time I have see one product come a long way.

This product was first harvested from the brains of sharks then it was found that the chemical was produced by human in small amounts, however you can't harvest it from there!!!! The studies went on and it has been found in human breast milk! now we can harvest this!!!! However is the past 7 years this chemical, through allot of research has been synthesized in labs so no harvesting in required. All-be-it the DL version but it does the job.

What I'm trying to say is that althoe at the moment the harvesting of organisms from the sea (and land) to progress medical science can be large there is always someone round the corner with a large brain going "yea! I can make that!"

Hope this contributes to your topic and if not well it's just the ramblings of a very tiered man!
Or instead of depleating the reefs of these organisms we can harvest one batch of them off of the reef and then grow them in a lab so they wouldn't be taking away from the reef constantly until of course as matt said they can make the chemicals without having to harm the organisms. I find it truly amazing how cures for human diseases can be found in the oddest of places such as on a reef or from a plant in the rainforest that we hadn't taken the time to care about till the moment we find it. what do you all think of how of the concept of destorying reefs and rainforests which is taking with it many valuable cures to ours diseases that we just haven't discovered yet? Sry if the question isn't worded the best I'm slightly tired from just waking up. well thats all I've got for now Dave
Well not quite Anticancer, I thought this highlighted the topic, we may have something in our reefs with many medicinal properties, even if its toxins etc

I removed this crab a few days ago from my Pico, he was eating my macro.



With some help from a member at RTAW called Jillari, he identified the creature as Atergatis floridus, with which I concur, after looking through images etc. C heck out some of the odd few journal article abstracts I found.

Paralytic shellfish toxins in the xanthid crab Atergatis floridus collected from Australian coral reefs.
L.E. Llewellyn; R. Endean
Journal of Wilderness Medicine: Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 118–126.

One hundred and nine specimens of Atergatis floridus (Xanthidae) were collected from coral reefs of the Capricorn Group in the southern region of the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia. Sixty-five acidified 70% ethanol extracts of whole crabs contained detectable toxicity, quantified with an assay which defines 1 mouse unit (MU) as the intraperitoneal dose which kills a 20 g mouse in 15 min. The most toxic extract contained 3838 MU (108 MUg−1 of crab), which exceeds the suggested human lethal dose. Chromatography and electrophoresis detected toxins similar to the paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs), namely saxitoxin, neosaxitoxin and gonyautoxins 1 and 2. All of the purified toxins exhibited pharmacological activity consistent with that exhibited by the PSTs. No more than two of these toxins were present in any extract. Statistical analysis demonstrated there were geographic and temporal patterns in the variation of crude toxicity levels. Combined foregut contents from 42 of the crabs comprised fish, crustacean and algal remains, from which 279 MU were extracted from 1.4 g of material (= 199 MUg−1)
A tetrodotoxin-like substance as a minor toxin in the xanthid crab Atergatis floridus.
Noguchi, T; Uza, A; Daigo, K; Shida, Y; Hasimoto, K.
Toxicon, 1984;22(3):425-32.

Toxins were extracted from the xanthid crab Atergatis floridus inhabiting Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, and subjected to several types of chromatography, resulting in separation into gonyautoxin and saxitoxin fractions. Thin-layer chromatographic and electrophoretic analyses showed that the gonyautoxin fraction was composed of gonyautoxins 1-4, along with some unknown compounds. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry demonstrated that the gonyautoxin fraction gave rise to the C9-base when alkali-hydrolyzed, indicating that this fraction contained a tetrodotoxin-like compound possessing the quinazoline skeleton specific to tetrodotoxin. The saxitoxin fraction consisted of neosaxitoxin, saxitoxin and two unknown compounds.
Hey guys,

Im 19 now. but when i was 2 and a half i got lukiemia i got through it quite easy but obviously if anything went wrong it could of gotten very serious.
I can only remember certain parts of it.

Because lukiemia is a cancer of the blood my imune system was wiped clean, i had to be in hospital till i was 3.. Then up untill i was 5 i had to go back for shots and blood tests every month. Then when i turned 6 i was told i was completely heathly..

Couple of things unusual happend to me, i hit puberty at a young age of 12 and i got my wisdom teeth at 16. I also had to grow up very fast.

Im lucky i live in wealthy country otherwise i may have not made it through.

All in all i would cetainly support anything that could lead to a cure for all cancers even if it did have to come from a reef or the amazon.

Before modern medicene we all had worms and other organisms living within us, They carried hormones that worked with our own white cells to kill off virus's and bacterial infections. Its not hard to believe that these worms helped drive off these cancer cells as well.

Great post stealhr!


- matt
Matt...I'm glad you are OK and trust me, your experiences will make you a better person. Perhaps, someday, YOU will be able to help someone else in this world when they are ill or hurting. SH
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