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Breast Cancer Slowing Drug Found in Sea-Sponge

Deep seas are often associated with precious treasures, perhaps because of hyped pirate stories? A sea sponge has, however, proved to be invaluable for breast cancer patients, more specifically those afflicted with TNBC. A drug, eribulin, was manufactured from the marine creature that has been shown to prolong the lives of patients who have reached advanced stages of TNBC. No disease is without cure, right? We just have to find them, on land, or at sea.

Photo credits: poppe-images.com

Breast cancer is affecting more and more women worldwide. One of its various forms is known as triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), which is characterised by the absence of receptors for the hormones estrogen and progesterone, together with a dearth of the expression of protein HER2.

Breast cancer, like any other type of cancer, greatly decreases quality of life of the patients. If death itself cannot be averted, doctors make use of whatever means that is available to prolong one’s life, as is humanly possible. A new such strategy involves a drug manufactured from a sea sponge that could potentially extend the life of women affected by advanced stages of the disease.

The scientists carried out their research on more than 1800 participants who had metastatic cancer, whereby the breast cancer had propagated to other body parts. This stage marks one of the advanced phases of the disease. The subjects were administered the sea-sponge-based drug called eribulin. Eribulin was made from the sea spong Halichondria okadai. It is meant to prevent the cancer cells from multiplying by arresting the process of cell division, inhibiting the action of microtubules. The latter are cell apparatuses that contribute to cell division. The individual diseased cells thus do not divide into two and therefore do no propagate.

Eribulin does not by itself cure the breast cancer patients. Rather, it limits the damage being done and life can thus be sustained for a longer period of time than it would have without the treatment. The greatest improvement was observed in women with advanced TNBC whose survival increased by around 5 months.

The earlier cancer is detected, the greater is the chance for the patient to live longer. Early treatment is easier, but it becomes more and more difficult at later phases, when the patients become less responsive to the existing methods of treatment. However, this study gives hope to those patients whose diagnosis is made at advanced stages.

One of the researchers said in a statement: “Eribulin isn’t a cure, it’s an extra treatment option for patients with advanced breast cancer, which can be priceless to them and their families“.


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