11:59pm Saturday 11 July 2020

Marine sponge shows promise against cancer

Dr Dan Balan

Dr Dan Balan wants to carry out further research to investigate the effectiveness of the synthesised sponge chemical on different cancers.

RMIT University researcher Dr Dan Balan demonstrated the compound 15-aza-Salicylihalamide A analogue had potent activity against several leukaemia cell lines.

Salicylihalamide A is a natural marine product that has been isolated from a marine sponge of the genus Haliclona, collected from waters around Rottnest Island, 18 km off the coast of southern Western Australia.

The compound is cytotoxic – or a toxin which is known to destroy cells and which also provides a defence for the sea sponge.

“My goal was to synthesise the chemical in the laboratory in the form of a single aza-salicylihalamide A analogue molecule,” Dr Balan, from the School of Applied Sciences, said.

The aza-salicylihalamide A analogue molecules were then exposed to NCI-60 leukaemia cell lines, and exhibited anti-proliferating effects on the group of cells at highly diluted, or “sub-molar”, concentrations.

“15-aza-Salicylihalamide A Analogue has proven to be very active against various types of cancer, but it was clearly most active against HL-60, which is acute promyelocytic leukaemia,” he said.

Other findings revealed it to be an inhibitor of vacuolar ATPase and proton pumps, frequently found in metastatic cancer cells, which are cancer cells that have migrated through the bloodstream from more advanced tumours.

“The molecule was synthesised in a short molecular sequence that could be easily produced in very large volumes for drug production,” Dr Balan said.

He said there would be further research to investigate its effectiveness on different cancers, potentially leading to extensive drug development.

Dr Balan’s PhD research was funded by RMIT and he was co-supervised by Associate Professor Helmut Hugel, RMIT, and Professor Mark Rizzacasa, Bio 21, University of Melbourne.

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