A natural compound to burn cancer

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for millions of deaths per year. Photodynamic therapy is a two-stage treatment that combines light energy with a drug (photosensitizer) designed to destroy cancerous cells after light activation. Even if this therapeutic option is successfully used in some cancers, some severe and frequent cancers such as breast cancer still lack such effective options.


A natural compound able to burn cancer cells

In their recent study in Biomedicines, scientists from the laboratory of Prof. Vladimir Katanaev in collaboration with other scientists from the Far Eastern Federal University of Russia, have discovered a new molecule called ETPA by studying marine invertebrates. ETPA is a compound naturally present in a particular species of Pacific brittle stars, Ophiura sarsii. Combining in vitro and in vivo studies, researchers have evidenced that ETPA is able to accumulate in cancer cells and “burn” them upon light exposure.


A natural compound present in Pacific brittle stars might open new therapeutic avenues to treat breast and brain cancer © Liam Quinn from Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0


Therapeutic implications

The abundance of ETPA in brittle stars and the ease of its extraction makes it a promising drug for photodynamic therapy. This study echoes a recent review by the laboratory of Prof. Vladimir Katanaev, highlighting the richness of nature and its great potential in the discovery of new cancer treatments.



3 Feb 2022