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Wellesley College Professor, Students Discover New Anti-Cancer Agent

The team found an agent that specifically targets cancer cells.

A Wellesley College professor and a team of student researchers discovered a compound that targets cancer cells directly.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dora Carrico-Moniz along with three Wellesley College alumnae prepared and modified angelmarin, a naturally occurring compound isolated from the root of a Japanese medicinal plant which exhibits anti-cancer activity, especially with regard to pancreatic cancer, according to a statement on the college’s website today.

Through the modifications, the team discovered a new compound, which targets pancreatic cancer cells directly, as opposed to all other anti-cancer agents which target cells that are both healthy and cancerous.

“At this moment there are no drugs that specifically target cancer cells that are nutrient-deprived,” Carrico-Moniz said in the statement.

The discovery could go along way in terms of reducing the painful side effects of chemo therapy because chemo treatments target healthy and cancerous cells, according to the statement.

Alumnae Tehsina Devji '11, Claire Reddy '09, and Christina Woo '08 were the lead authors on a publication of this discovery, “Pancreatic Anticancer Activity of a Novel Geranylgeranylated Coumarin Derivative” in the journal Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters. 

Wellesley students Maria Jun ’14, Alyssa Bacay ’14, and Julia Solomon ’13 are following up on this discovery, and evaluating the biological activity in collaboration with Professor Andrew Webb of the Biological Sciences Department.

Ultimately, the group hopes to identify an optimal compound suitable for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, according to the statement.

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