The June 16 agreement between Cytoclonal Pharmaceutics Inc. of Dallas and Bristol-Myers Squibb moves the alternative source of the drug one step closer to possible manufacture and use, MSU officials say.
"We're not there yet," cautioned MSU-Bozeman vice president for research Bob Swenson. "But we're encouraged that the world's manufacturer and distributor of taxol has chosen this as the potential next source for the drug. We hope that this technology bears fruit."
Taxol is Bristol-Myers' brand name for paclitaxel, the drug's active ingredient that comes from the bark and needles of yew trees. Taxol is federally approved for treating breast and ovarian cancers. About one in nine women in the U.S. develops breast cancer, and about one in 70 develops ovarian cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Additional studies have shown taxol's effectiveness against other diseases including esophageal cancer and the AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma.
"Taxol is like aspirin," British Columbia Hospital researcher Lindsay Machan told Business Week in March. "We're finding more uses for it than what it was originally intended for."
Earlier this decade, environmentalists were worried that the yew tree
would be wiped out for it's meager supply of the potent drug. Scientists began
looking for other sources, and in 1993 Gary Strobel at MSU-Bozeman and Andrea
and Don Stierle at Montana Tech made headlines when they announced that they
isolated taxol from a fungus growing on a Pacific yew tree in northwestern
Montana. They named the fungus Taxomyces andreanae, after Andrea Stierle. The
discovery raised the possibility of creating a renewable source of the drug by
Contact: Gary Strobel
Montana State University