FT. PIERCE, Fla.--Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution received word today that they are the recipient of a three-year, $1.1 million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for studies investigating the potential anticancer properties of the marine-derived compound, Discodermolide. Ross E. Longley, Ph.D., Immunology, Oncology and Screening Group Leader for Harbor Branch's Division of Biomedical Marine Research (DBMR) is the principal investigator and primary author of the grant. Sarath P. Gunasekera, Ph.D., Chemistry Group Leader, DBMR and David C. Myles, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of California at Los Angeles are co-investigators on the grant. United States Senator Connie Mack (R-Florida), a long standing supporter of NIH/NCI funded biomedical research and a cancer survivor himself, will tour the Harbor Branch facilities today with Drs. Longley and Gunasekera to learn more about how the grant will help further Harbor Branch's biomedical research efforts. The grant has a start date of December 9, 1997.
Discodermolide is a promising anti-cancer compound derived from the marine sponge, Discodermia dissoluta, and was discovered and characterized by Longley and Gunasekera at Harbor Branch in 1990. Subsequent studies by the Harbor Branch team and collaborators revealed the compound to be a potent anti-tumor agent with a mechanism of action similar to that of the clinical anti-cancer agent Taxol. Both Taxol and discodermolide interact with microtubules, structures which compose the framework or "cytoskeleton" of normal and cancer cells. These compounds bind to, and "freeze", the otherwise flexible cytoskeleton, which results in killing of the tumor cell. Discodermolide, however, appears to be up to 80 times more potent than Taxol in killing human tumor cells and is also effective in killing tumor cells which have developed "resistance" against Taxol treatment.
Contact: Susan Hanson
561-465-2400 x 206
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution