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Anti-cancer drug made from natural substance19.11.2007 - (idw) Hermann von Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren
Berlin/Braunschweig, Germany, 19th November, 2007 - Scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) have discovered a class of natural substances that are produced by soil bacteria and prevent somatic cells from dividing. After years of in-depth research, the US pharmaceuticals company Bristol-Myers Squibb is now launching this agent on the American market as a treatment for cancer.
The epothilones that Prof. Gerhard Höfle and Prof. Hans Reichenbach of the HZI have been studying for more than 20 years are produced by myxobacteria living in the soil. Epothilones block the somatic cell components known as microtubules, preventing the cells from dividing any further and causing them to die off and decompose. The effect of epothilones on cancerous cells, which are characterised by their tendency to divide uncontrollably, is particularly dramatic: tumours can shrink or even disappear.
"I congratulate the scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research on this great achievement. In future, epothilone could help many patients overcome cancer. However, experience has shown just how important it is to keep your nose to the grindstone and persist with basic research. After all, epothilones are an entirely new class of agent and were initially studied for the purposes of scientific research and not specifically with the treatment of cancer in mind," says Professor Jürgen Mlynek, President of the Helmholtz Association.
The US pharmaceuticals company Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) acquired the licence for the substance known as epothilone B from the HZI and developed it so that it could be launched on the market. Starting immediately, medical practitioners in the US can prescribe it under the trade name Ixempra to treat metastatic breast cancers that have proven resistant to other medication. It is expected to be approved for use in Europe next year.
The Helmholtz Association contributes to solving major challenges facing society, science and the economy with top scientific achievements in six research areas: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Structure of Matter, Transport and Space. With 26,500 employees in 15 research centres and an annual budget of approximately ¤2.3 billion, the Helmholtz Association is Germany's largest scientific organisation. Its work follows in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894).
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Dipl.-Biol./Dipl.-Journ. Thomas Gazlig
Head of Communications and Media Relations
Phone/Fax: +49 30 206329-57/60
Dr. Antonia Rötger
Phone: 030 206329-38
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