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Marine Bacteria

December 22, 2005

To live on the ocean floor, some bacteria have developed unique chemical properties–some of which may help us fight cancer.


A cancer-fighting sludge-dweller. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Bacteria that live in mucky ocean sediments have recently yielded a treasure trove of potential cancer drugs. One of them is being developed by Ken Anderson and his colleagues at Harvard’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute. The drug attacks a part of the cancer cell called the proteasome.

KEN ANDERSON (Harvard University):
The proteasome can be thought of as a garbage disposal for the cell. And plainly, the cancer cell has more garbage protein – that would mean misfolded, mutated, dysfunctional protein – than normal cells.

Jamming the proteasome makes the tumor cells fill up with garbage and die. Healthy cells aren’t as vulnerable because they produce less garbage protein. After promising lab and animal studies, the drug will soon begin clinical trials against an incurable bone marrow cancer.
I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.