Could Anti-Tumor Antibiotic Hold the Key to Curing Mesothelioma?

Could the cure for mesothelioma be found in an antibiotic? It’s just one of the questions that researchers will be able to answer now that scientists have solved the riddle of how to synthetically reproduce an incredibly strong, incredibly complex anti-tumor antibiotic. Kedarcidin was first discovered in a soil sample in India 30 years ago. It was quickly identified as being highly effective at killing drug-resistant bacteria as well as at breaking down the cells of aggressive cancer tumors, but scientists immediately realized that these superpowers  could only be harnessed once the material could be replicated in a laboratory. Nearly all antibiotics developed since the 1940s have originally been found in soil or mold, then reproduced synthetically. Because kedarcidin has such a complex structure, replicating it had proven impossible – until today. After 20 years, scientists have cracked its chemical code.

Newly Synthesized Material Attacks Tumor Cell Structure and DNA

The breakthrough has raised hopes that kedarcidin may be an effective tool against malignant mesothelioma, which is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer.  The material attacks the DNA of both cancer cells and bacterial cells, but at the same time it breaks down the cell’s structural integrity. Scientists have long been fascinated by how it accomplishes its task, but up until now they have been unable to fully assess its powers because they were only able to work with it and test it in an incomplete form. As Dr. Martin Lear, Reader in the School of Chemistry at the University of Lincoln, United Kingdom explained, “Following its discovery in soil it took 10 years to determine the molecular structure of kedarcidin. With a reactive core protected by a protein cloak, it resembles something like a scotch egg!”

Scientists Driven By Hope of Curing Cancer

The potential for curing mesothelioma and other rare cancers was what drove Lear and Professor Masahiro Hirama of Tohoku University in Japan to devote themselves to creating “a total synthesis” of the material. Writing in The Journal of Antibiotics from Nature, he explained, “In 1997, I began the long journey of making kedarcidin’s reactive core with Professor Hirama, who was recently awarded the highest honour for a scientist in Japan. We basically needed to piece together a molecular puzzle of remarkable difficulty and then develop new ways of making the jigsaw pieces. 20 years later we have finally solved the puzzle. This extraordinary journey has revealed new molecular insights and promising mechanisms for fighting cancer and combating drug-resistant bacteria, and it has challenged the frontiers of chemistry and biology. Now the new biological knowledge and chemical ability we have can be used to develop the next generation of antibiotics and anticancer agents.”

Scientists continue to make great strides towards finding a cure for malignant mesothelioma. If you or someone you love has been affected by this disease, the Patient Advocates at can help you access state-of-the-art treatment and other resources. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608 to learn more.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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