BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 20, 2002 -- Years of research by Virginia Tech chemist David G. I. Kingston has resulted in knowledge that helped improve the efficiency of a potent anti-cancer drug and also helped in saving vital tropical forests in South America. For this and other work, the Science Museum of Virginia and the Office of the Governor are naming Kingston a Virginia Outstanding Scientist of 2002.
Kingston was the first chemist in the United States to study the chemical qualities of paclitaxel, or Taxol, now the worlds best-selling anticancer drug. Taxol is used to treat breast and ovarian cancer, as it inhibits cell division.
The original source of Taxol was the 100-year-old Pacific yew tree, and six trees were sacrificed to treat each patient. Kingstons work paved the way for developing a semi-synthetic process to create Taxol, according to the Science Museum of Virginia, and "laid the foundation of Taxol chemistry and provided much of the basic research leading to development of improved versions of Taxol."
"Researchers at the National Cancer Institute call Kingston the worlds leading expert on the chemistry of Taxol," according to the Science Museum of Virginias press release. He began working on Taxol when few people were interested in it. "His investigations have created a foundation for what is now an international scientific effort."
One of the goals of Taxol research was to be able to give higher doses of the drug targeted to the tumor so as to reduce toxic effects. Kingston has received patents for modifying certain positions of molecules that improved the activity of Taxol. For example, he found that modifying one of the benzoyl groups of Taxol in a specific way significantly improved the drugs potency. Two different pharmaceutical companies have incorporated this modification, along with other modifications of the
Contact: David G.I. Kingston