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Biology professor hopes to produce cheaper chemo drug

Could this be the secret to cheaper chemo?

The Southern Business Journal published a news article today about Professor Aldwin Anterola, of Carbondale, Illinois, who is hoping to come up with cheaper ways to produce the chemotherapy drug known as Taxol® – using moss!

Prof. Anterola, who teaches Plant Biology, has been using parts of the Pacific Yew Tree, which pharmaceutical companies use to produce Taxol®. The tree, says Anterola, is rare, and that’s driven up the price of this anticancer drug significantly. Scientists have been trying to produce a cheaper version using different parts of the tree and other plants.

But, “It’s still expensive,” says Anterola, of the different, cheaper version of the drug.

Prof. Anterola has been transferring the capabilities of the Yew to a type of moss called Physcomitrella in an attempt to recreate Taxol® for far less money. Anterola honed in on the “entkaurene/kauranol synthase” in the moss and discovered that a “biosynthetic machinery” manipulated by a single gene can be redirected to create anticancer compounds, like those that make up Taxol®.

The motivation behind the professor’s research is the rising cost of cancer care. “The only thing that can be cut is [the cost] of drugs,” he says. Anterola knows cancer, as many of the people he knows have battled the disease.

Taxol®, a chemo drug commonly used to treat recurring breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and lung cancer. It may also be combined with other drugs to treat other illnesses, including people with AIDS who are suffering from Kaposi ’s sarcoma cancer. Also known as Paclitaxel Injection, Taxol® can cause a big increase in white blood cells, so while it can be an effective anticancer drug, it’s also risky, as an increase in white blood cells may lead to a serious infection. Another form of Paclitaxel Injection, called Abraxane®, is considered to be a bit safer than Taxol®, as the patient’s chance of having serious allergic reaction to the medicine is less likely when taking Abraxane®. Regardless, for some people who know cancer, Taxol® has been the difference between life and death.

Taxol® was discovered through research supported by public funding, which has motivated Professor Anterola even more.

“I think we owe the public since taxpayer money led to discovering Taxol®,” he said. “We should do something about the cost.”

People who know cancer and have endured chemotherapy probably agree. Back in 2009, a group of researchers began compiling data collected during a ten-year study. The data pulled came from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End-Results, or SEER, database. The goal was to track the cost of cancer treatment over a decade. They noted that the rapidly-increasing cost of chemo during those ten years led to an increase of up to $10,000 for the treatment of cancer. For example, the cost of treating breast cancer increased by almost $17,000 during the ten-year period.

An article published by Johns Hopkins Health Alerts revealed that, on the low end, chemo may cost as little as $100. But, when adding other drugs to the mix – like Oxaliplatin – the cost can rise to $10,000. Adding anticancer drug Avastin® can take the cost of chemotherapy up to as much as $30,000 – and this is just the cost of the drugs! Back in 2009, the National Cancer Institute estimated that a decade worth of breast cancer treatment cost an average of $21,000, while ten year’s worth of treatment for lung cancer was about $40,000. This, of course, depends on the type of drugs administered, how often, and at which hospital the patient was treated.

Source:

National Cancer Institute

Southern Business Journal

LIVESTRONG

Johns Hopkins Health Alerts

One Response to “Biology professor hopes to produce cheaper chemo drug”

  1. I BELIVE THIS WOULD BE A BREAK THROUGH,ALTHOUGH I BELIVE IN MY HEART THAT IF THE GOVERMENT CAN SEND MONEY AND HELP ALL THESE DEVESTATED PEOPLE,WE COULD PROVIDE FOR OUR CANCER PATIENTS,THOSE WITH DISEASES THAT CAUSE DEATH AND MAKE THEIR LAST DAYS HERE ON EATH DEBT FREE FROM MEDICAL EXPENSES.THIS IS THE CAUSE I BELIEVE IN WHOLE HEARTEDLY.I HAVE LOST SO MANY FRIENDS AND FAMILY FROM CANCER. I COMMEND YOU FOR YOUR REASEARCH TO HELP OTHERS,THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART.

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