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  • Srimoyee Mukherjee

Taming the Emperor of All Maladies

‘Cancer’, That six-letter word gives everybody a sense of doom, fear. I am quite sure that each of us are aware of somebody or a relative of somebody who has suffered or is suffering from cancer.There is no definite cure for this terrifying disease. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy only work till Stage 2, sometimes Stage 3. Beyond that, it’s really just a matter of giving that person those few extra months to live. Painfully, might I add. Recently, football legend Pele was reported to have started palliative care and treatment for only pain as chemotherapy stopped showing desired results.

Early studies in the 1990s showed that soft corals have a compound that could slow cancer cell growth. Since then, scientists have been searching for it for more than 25 years.

Not long ago, the University of Utah discovered the compound in question, eleutherobin, discovered in the soft corals of Australia. This progress unlocks the doors to producing this compound in large amounts for clinical trials, hopefully, eventually, leading to a state-of-the-art aid to fighting this destructive disease.

The search for this compound has been nothing short of extensive. At first, they first had to figure out if the corals made the compound themselves or it was produced symbiotically. They then studied the corals’ genetic code, aka DNA to find out if they had the 'method' to make this chemical. They were able to find parts of the DNA, similar to other species producing similar compounds. Finally, they produced the bacteria in the lab. One researcher said that this is the first time they have been able to do any such thing with a drug on earth. The university hopes to produce this medicine to give to doctors. One said, “I think of it as going from the bottom of the ocean to the bench to the bedside.”

Fingers crossed, this leads to a myriad of various such anti-cancer therapeutics.

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