According to the Nature Chemical Biology journal, the anti-cancer molecule salinosporamide A (also called Marizomb), is in phase III clinical trials to treat glioblastoma, a brain cancer. Scientists now for the first time understand the enzyme-driven process that activates the molecule and an enzyme called SalC assembles what the team calls the salinosporamide anti-cancer “warhead.”
This discovery could be used in the future to use enzymes to produce other types of salinosporamides that could attack not only cancer but diseases of the immune system and infections caused by parasites.
The salinosporamide molecule has a special ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, which accounts for its progress in clinical trials for glioblastoma, scientists explained.
The molecule has a small but complex ring structure. It starts as a linear molecule that folds into a more complex circular shape.
The marine bacterium involved, called Salinispora tropica, makes salinosporamide to avoid being eaten by its predators. But scientists have found that salinosporamide A also can treat cancer. They have isolated other salinosporamides, but salinosporamide A has features that the others lack – including biological activity that makes it hazardous to cancer cells.