A new breast cancer drug has been found deep in the sea off Japan. Eisai of Japan, a drug maker, has developed this new drug, Halaven, from  halichondrin B, which comes from a black sponge off the coast of Japan. Studies showed it has a powerful effect on tumors, blocking cell division in a way scientist’s had not previously thought of. This finding bolsters the belief that molecules from nature hold promise against hard-to-treat diseases.

Primitive creatures developed many clever ways to kill each other after billions of years of evolution, and some can be turned to human use. “Weapons of mass destruction are alive and well on a coral reef,” says David Newman of the National Cancer Institute, who has studied the subject for decades.

Currently, scientists are studying microbes in the sea and in soil, looking for natural substances to derive drugs from. In addition to halichondrin B, other natural sources include: willow bark which makes aspirin, Quinine from the bark of the cinchona tree, Cyclosporin from a fungus, Byetta from Gila monster saliva, and Taxol from the Pacific yew tree. Current research is under way to see if scorpion venom can be used to make a drug for arthritis relief.

Nature is really smart.

Satay well, John R Blilie, M.S.