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University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456,

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Release Date:

August 12, 2002


Carol Mattar, (312) 996-1583,

UIC Researchers Discover New Application for Anti-Cancer Agent

Researchers in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago have discovered a new application for a previously tested anti-cancer compound that may eventually lead to a more effective treatment for multiple myeloma - one of the more common cancers of the blood that claims about 12,000 lives each year in the United States.

A recent UIC study led by John Pezzuto, professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy, suggests taking a second look at bruceantin, which was once tested for the treatment of breast cancer and melanoma.

UIC research team members revealed their groundbreaking findings last month during the 43rd meeting of the American Society of Pharmacognosy in New Jersey. In addition to Pezzuto, researchers involved with this project include Muriel Cuendet and Dan Lantvit, both research specialists at UIC.

Bruceantin is found in plants of the Brucea species. Initially, the compound - isolated in 1972 by Morris Kupchan - was investigated as a potential treatment for solid tumors, breast cancer and melanoma. However, the compound was not successful in these trials.

In the UIC study, researchers found a significant reduction in the growth of myeloma cells in culture after treating them with bruceantin, functioning through a process of programmed cell death. More importantly, the agent drastically reduced the growth of multiple myeloma with experimental animals.

"Based on the doses that were used in previous clinical trials, it should be possible to mediate a clinical effect against multiple myeloma or other types of blood-related cancers without severe side effects. This is a very exciting possibility and we are looking forward to performing clinical trials in the future," said Pezzuto, who is associate dean of research and graduate education at the UIC College of Pharmacy and deputy director of the UIC Cancer Center.

Multiple myeloma originates in the bone marrow. Although chemotherapy, radiation and biological therapy are used to treat patients with this condition, no cure exists. In fact, the survival rate for individuals with myeloma is about three years following diagnosis.

"Clearly, there is a need for new drugs that may be useful for the control, treatment and/or cure of this disease," Pezzuto said.

A patent application has been filed by UIC and the Office of Technology Management is actively marketing the technology.

For more information about bruceantin and the UIC study, contact Pezzuto at (312) 996-5967.

For more information about UIC, visit

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