Ecteinascidin 743, a compound derived from the Caribbean sea squirt Ecteinascidia turbinata, is currently being tested as an anticancer treatment in clinical trials against a range of tumors. Understanding how this compound works might help guide the choice of which cancers it is used to treat.
When mutations in cellular DNA occur they are often fixed by DNA repair mechanisms. One such repair kit is called nucleotide excision repair (NER), which removes damaged sections of DNA and replaces them with the correct ones. UV-light-induced skin carcinogenesis and neurodegeneration are the result of a defective NER system in humans.
By experimenting with human cancer cell lines that are resistant to the effects of Ecteinascidin 743, Yves Pommier and colleagues at the US National Cancer Institute have discovered that the compound alters the NER process, and rather than repairing the damaged DNA, Ecteinascidin 743 causes the NER machinery to create lethal breaks in the DNA, thus killing cells (Nature Medicine, Vol. 7, No. 8, 01 Aug 01).
Dr. Yves Pommier
National Cancer Institute
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD, USA
Tel: (+1) 301 496 5944
Fax: (+1) 301 402-0752
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
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