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Sunday, February 1, 1998 Published at 16:35 GMT


Microbe's anti-cancer potential
image: [ Scientists hope a genetically altered microbe could be a successful cancer drug ]
Scientists hope a genetically altered microbe could be a successful cancer drug

A new generation of anti-cancer drugs may soon be available, according to scientists.

The agent Curacin A is found in a tiny sea organism first identified four years ago.

It is known to have anti-cancer properties but is highly unstable, making it unsuitable as a treatment.

Professor John Mann, from Reading University, Berkshire, is leading a research team trying to make Curacin A a viable cancer treatment.

He said: "Curacin A is a very simple molecular structure and can in principle be made in the laboratory."

His team is trying to reproduce natural Curacin A, found in the marine bug cyanobacterium, in laboratory conditions.

Professor Mann said: "We hope to make the agent water soluble, an important characteristic if it is to be used as a cancer treatment.

"Because of its simplicity, making therapeutic versions of the agent would not be unduly expensive.

"If we are successful it will be relatively cheap to produce and could become an additional part of the armoury in cancer therapy."

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Reading University Chemistry Department

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