Experts on Natural Products Anticancer Discovery Meet in Columbus

“Discovery of Anticancer Agents of Diverse Natural Origin” meeting attendees

On October 12, an annual meeting was held on the campus of The Ohio State University for the program project “Discovery of Anticancer Agents of Diverse Natural Origin” (2P01 CA125066), funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, NIH (2007-2019), for which A. Douglas Kinghorn, Ph.D., D.Sc., Professor and Jack L. Beal Chair, College of Pharmacy, serves as Principal Investigator. There was a strong turnout at the meeting from a distinguished External Advisory Committee (EAC) and from most of the senior-level investigators associated with the project, who traveled to Columbus from several different locations. Robert W. Brueggemeier, Ph.D. (Dean and Professor Emeritus) and Jack C. Yalowich, Ph.D. (Professor and Chair of the Division of Pharmacology), from the OSU College of Pharmacy attended the meeting as members of the Internal Advisory Committee. Other College faculty members present were Esperanza J. Carcache de Blanco, Ph.D. (Associate Professor), James R. Fuchs, Ph.D. (Associate Professor), H. Liva Rakotondraibe, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor), and Mitch A. Phelps, Ph.D. (Associate Professor), while David M. Lucas, Ph.D. (Research Assistant Professor, OSU Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy) and Xiaoli Zhang, Ph.D. (Research Scientist, OSU Center for Biostatistics) were also in attendance.

The project has a distinguished EAC, of whom three out of four members were able to be present, namely, William H. Gerwick, Ph.D. (Distinguished Professor, University of California, San Diego), Susan Band Horwitz, Ph.D. (Distinguished Professor and Rose C. Falkenstein Chair in Cancer Research, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY), and George R. Pettit, Ph.D. (Regents Professor, Arizona State University).

Members of the program project investigator team represented the University of Illinois of Chicago (Joanna E. Burdette, Ph.D. and Jimmy Orjala, Ph.D.), the University of North Carolina Greensboro (Nicholas H. Oberlies, Ph.D.), Mycosynthetix, Inc., Hillsborough, NC (Cedric J. Pearce, Ph.D.), Research Triangle Institute (RTI), Research Triangle Park, NC (Mansukh C. Wani, Ph.D.; Principal Scientist Emeritus), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Steven M. Swanson, Ph.D.; Dean, School of Pharmacy).

In particular, three of the more senior members of the assembled group have made major contributions to anticancer drug discovery from natural sources in the past. Dr. Wani of RTI is the co-discoverer of both camptothecin and taxol (paclitaxel), which has led to the introduction of five U.S. FDA-approved oncolytic agents to date. Dr. Horwitz, a former President of the American Association for Cancer Research, has many seminal scientific contributions to her credit, including the discovery of how taxol interacts mechanistically in the cancer cell with microtubules. A number of compounds first isolated and characterized by Dr. Pettit have entered preclinical and clinical trials either in an unmodified or modified form, with two products from his work being commercially available, namely, the FDA-approved Adcetris (brentuximab vedatin) and Zybrestat (combretastatin A4 phosphate; Orphan Drug Status). Together, their work has saved the lives of thousands of cancer patients.