UH Hilo researcher identifies peptide active against certain cancers

The research team proved that petrichorin A is active against cancers such as ovarian cancer, fibrosarcoma, prostate cancer, and T-cell leukemia.

Shugeng Cao stands in his lab for photo.
Shugeng Cao at the Cao Laboratory, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. (Courtesy photo/Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy)

A University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo researcher has identified a rare bacterium that is active against certain cancers.

The bacterium, Lentzea flaviverrucosa, found to produce petrichorin A, was discovered by Shugeng Cao, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at UH Hilo who also is an associate member of the Cancer Biology Program at the UH Cancer Center, and Joshua Blodgett of Washington University in St. Louis.

“Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Hawaiʻi and nationally, after cardiovascular disease,” says Cao. “If petrichorin A were developed successfully, people in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific would benefit from our drug therapies.”

First author of the study is Chunshun Li, a previous postdoctoral fellow in Cao’s lab who is now a scientist at Antheia, Inc. Xiaohua Wu, a senior research associate at the UH Hilo pharmacy college, is also a co-author.

The research team proved that petrichorin A is active against cancers such as ovarian cancer, fibrosarcoma, prostate cancer, and T-cell leukemia.

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (April 19, 2022).

Petrichorin A is a peptide that contains four special amino acids, and each special amino acid has a nitrogen-nitrogen bond. Petrichorin A, a dumbbell-like natural product, was evaluated for anti-cancer activity against multiple cancer cell lines.

The researchers conducted a preliminary test and discovered that petrichorin A was not toxic to a normal human cell line. With this observation, his team proved that petrichorin A was active against ovarian cancer, fibrosarcoma, prostate cancer, and T-cell leukemia. This highlighted the importance of including petrichorin A in future research of pharmaceutical design and discovery programs.

See full media release about the findings.

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