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Published On: Wed, Aug 28th, 2019

Sea snail compound reduces cancer risk

The remarkable ability of a small Australian sea snail to produce a colourful purple compound to protect its eggs is proving even more remarkable for its potential in a new anti-cancer pharmaceutical.

Dicathais orbita
Public domain image/Graham Bould

Researchers at Flinders University, Southern Cross University and Monash University in Australia have isolated one compound in the gland secretions from the Australian white rock sea snail (Dicathasis orbita) which has not only antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities, but important anti-cancer properties.

“After a decade of work, we have found an active compound derived from the substance produced by the mollusc’s gland which could be used as a preventative in bowel cancer,” says senior lead scientist Professor Catherine Abbott from Flinders University.

“We’re very excited about these latest results and hope to attract investment from a pharma company to work on a new drug to reduce development of colorectal cancer tumours.”

Using the latest mass spectrometry technology, the research team has been able to pinpoint the lead active compound which, in future, could be put to good work.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of the 9.6 million cancer deaths every year, with the World Health Organization reporting 862,000 deaths in 2018.

Natural compounds from marine and terrestrial plants and animals are valuable sources of current and future medicines for human health, says Southern Cross University marine scientist Professor Kirsten Benkendorff, who is also researching the potential of replicating the snail species’ anti-inflammatory compound.

“This is very important for drug development because it helps demonstrate the absence of potentially toxic side-effects”.

 

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