New Compounds Fight Malaria, Prostate Cancer

Several new compounds modeled on an ancient Chinese folk remedy show promise in fighting malaria and some forms of cancer, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "Preliminary data show that our laboratory-synthesized compounds have a therapeutic index -- the measure of a drug's safety and efficacy -- that is better, in some cases, many times better, in rodents than the drugs currently considered the gold standard for chemotherapy of both malaria and prostate cancer," Gary Posner, Scowe Professor of Chemistry at Hopkins' Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, said in a prepared statement. "These results are preliminary, but exciting, and certainly worth pursuing," Posner said. The compounds he and his colleagues designed, called trioxanes, are meant to mimic the action of the active agent in the Artemisia annua, or wormwood, plant. The plant has been used in China for thousands of years to treat malaria and other fevers. In tests on the malaria parasite, one trioxane compound proved six or seven times as effective in killing the organism than sodium artesunate, one of the most effective antimalarials commonly used today. And in a second experiment, another trioxane was three times as effective in attacking prostate cancer cells in mice, compared with two leading chemotherapy agents, Gemzar and Adriamycin. The research was presented Aug. 24 at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadephia.

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