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Cancer Drug Derived From ‘Caterpillar Fungus’ Shows Promising Results

Oct, 2021

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Researchers developed a novel chemotherapy drug from Himalayan Caterpillar Fungus that shows 40 times higher potency against cancer cells.

A group of scientists from the University of Oxford collaborated with NuCana, a biopharmaceutical company and discovered that new chemotherapy drug NUC-7738, derived from a Himalayan fungus is 40 times more efficient in eliminating cancer cells than its parent compound with lesser toxic side effects.

A compound known as Cordycepin is a naturally occurring nucleoside analogue that is found in Himalayan fungus Cordyceps sinensis and it is used in traditional Chinese medicine for many years for treatment of cancer and other inflammatory diseases. However, this compound comes across many barriers that restrict its potency. When Cordycepin enters the blood flow, it breaks down rapidly by an enzyme known as ADA and only the remaining small amount of it makes it to the tumor. To boost its potency and clinically evaluate its applications, NuCana developed Cordycepin into clinical therapy with their new technology called as ProTide to address limitation of nucleoside analogues and to significantly improve the efficiency of the chemotherapy drug. Using this new technology small chemical groups are attached to the compound making it more resistant to breaking down in the bloodstream. Moreover, it allows those chemical groups to enter cancer cells without needing the help of nucleoside transporters.

In results, it generates higher level of anti-cancer metabolites and activates them inside tumour. This new drug is called NUC-7738 and the drug was evaluated by in vitro studies, where it demonstrated the resistance to the breaking down. When it was studied on human tumors, it showed 40 times efficiency as the naturally occurring Cordycepin with lesser toxic side effects. The team is now testing its efficiency in the Phase 1 clinical trial on patients having advanced solid tumors. There will be a phase 2 clinical trial to assess the NUC-7738’s clinical potential.

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