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microscopic image of pink cancer cells

Research paves way for new source for leukemia drug

By Steve Lundeberg

Blood smear showing acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

Chemist Christopher Beaudry and colleagues patented a method for making anti-leukemia compounds that until now have only been available via an Asian tree that produces them.

The synthesis of cephalotaxine and homoharringtonine paves the way toward less-expensive, more readily available leukemia drugs whose production is not subject to the risks and inefficiencies associated with harvesting natural sources.

Also, the synthesis of cephalotaxine opens the door to preparing other, structurally related compounds for evaluation as potential new cancer drugs.

“We want to partner with industry so we don’t have to grow trees to get this anymore,” said Beaudry. “And maybe we can come up with a more potent protein translation inhibitor, or a more selective inhibitor. There’s also a chance this molecule can find application in blocking bacterial protein synthesis, which would be useful for treating antibiotic-resistant pathogens.”

The story was picked up by Technology Networks and findings were published in Angewandte Chemie.

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