In the constant battle against cancer, researchers are looking for compounds derived from rainforest plants and other natural products that have anti-tumor properties. Image Credit: Flickr user andreas lambrianides

Some of today’s most promising cancer cures are derived from natural products. According to a 2014 report from The Scripps Institute, nearly three-quarters of all of the small molecule anticancer drugs that have been commercialized between the 1940s and the present had their foundations in natural products, with that figure rising to 80% for small molecule drugs developed between 1981 and today.1 Usually derived from plant products found in the rainforest, these small molecule drugs show great potential for the treatment of a wide range of cancer types.

One such case is EBC 46, a compound that is derived from the berry of the plant Fountainea pricosperma, which is native to the rainforests of northern Queensland in Australia. The compound’s anticancer properties are based on its ability to induce an inflammatory response that quickly leads to the hemorrhagic necrosis of tumor cells.2 In animal models such as mice and dogs, it has been able to quickly destroy tumors, and the pharmaceutical company Qbiotics is now pursuing clinical trials.3 In fact, in August 2016, they were able to release preliminary data on eight cancer patients who were successfully treated with the drug for four different tumor types, without any adverse side effects.4

Based on the remarkable potential of EBC 46 and other natural product-based anticancer drugs, more pharmaceutical companies than ever are scouring the globe for plants that may contain potent anticancer compounds. As researchers screen compounds and consider the development possibilities for these products, software that can speed up the compound identification process and cut down on costs can be an essential tool.

Using Technology to Identify the Best Drug Candidates

When considering natural product-based drug candidates for development, making the right decisions in the early stages of research and development is key. That way, only the most promising cancer-fighting compounds, like EBC 46, will be brought to clinical trials, resulting in a reduction in the number of “failed” drug candidates abandoned over the course of Phase I or Phase II clinical trials. There are several ways that researchers can protect against these costly and increasingly common failures:

  • Dealing with large quantities of data

 

The world’s rainforests are home to millions of plant species, many of which have not yet been evaluated for potential anticancer and other disease-fighting compounds. Modern software programs are finally making it possible for scientists to analyze and interpret the vast amounts of data that will be generated by studies on these plants. Scientists can now quickly dismiss likely failures and pinpoint compounds that are most likely to have effective disease-fighting properties.  

  • Sorting through possibilities with computer simulations

 

Another way to efficiently explore potential small molecule drugs for treating cancer is to run computer simulations before bringing the compound to the bench for physical tests. Using this strategy can help scientists to determine whether or not a compound is really as potent as EBC 46 turned out to be, thereby limiting the resources wasted on animal model tests and clinical trials for failed drugs that never make it to market. In silico testing is also usually faster than bench tests, so scientists can more focus their efforts on only the most promising small molecule drugs.

  • Facilitating efficient information transfer

 

Researchers looking for disease-fighting natural products in the field may be based at rainforests that are far away from the company’s main research labs. Software-based platforms can make it easier for field researchers and lab scientists to share their findings and work together to figure out which plant-based compounds might have the greatest potential. Also, when lab scientists do decide to move forward on a particular compound, they can share the results of their experiments with field researchers, who might use them to try to locate more natural products that have similar properties.

Finding safe and effective drugs for cancer treatment is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Compounds derived from natural products like EBC 46 show great promise, which has led the scientific community to double down on the search for disease-fighting compounds in rainforests and other natural environments. With modern software, pharmaceutical companies and research organizations can improve both the quality and efficiency of research efforts in this area, bringing potential solutions to an ever-growing market.

BIOVIA Designed to Cure is an advanced software solution that supports information-sharing, data analysis and computer simulations for the purpose of developing effective disease-fighting drugs. This technology can help your company more easily determine which compounds are truly worth pursuing, thus reducing the amount of time and money wasted on drugs that have to be pulled from clinical trials. Contact us today to learn more about how your lab can make the most of this software’s capabilities.

  1. “Are Some of the Best Cancer Pharmaceuticals Hiding Out in the Rainforest?” June 1, 2015, http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevendelco/2015/06/01/are-some-of-the-best-cancer-pharmaceuticals-hiding-out-in-the-rainforests/#2dc5d0947c69
  2.  “Intra-lesional injection of the novel PKC activator EBC-46 rapidly ablates tumors in mouse models,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25272271
  3. “EBC-46  & Humans,” 2017. https://qbiotics.com/index.php/human-pipeline/ebc-46-humans
  4. “Anti-cancer drug discovered in rainforest successfully tested on humans,” August 21, 2016, http://www.cairnspost.com.au/lifestyle/anticancer-drug-discovered-in-rainforest-successfully-tested-on-humans/news-story/9b6da3a28fb5efa23e0a01b5e40e63b5