Moffitt Researchers Unveil Scalable Method to Produce Cancer-Fighting Compounds

Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center have introduced a novel method for synthesizing withanolides in large quantities, potentially revolutionizing cancer treatment by improving access to these valuable compounds.

In a groundbreaking development, Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have created a scalable synthesis method for withanolides, a group of naturally occurring compounds with noted anti-cancer properties. Traditionally sourced from plants, withanolides have shown remarkable potential to inhibit cancer cell growth, induce apoptosis and block metastasis. However, their natural scarcity has limited research and therapeutic advancement.

The innovative method, detailed in a recent publication in Science Advances, could transform cancer research by providing a reliable and efficient way to produce these crucial compounds in large quantities.

“Our new synthesis route represents a major step forward in the field of withanolide chemistry,” Justin M. Lopchuk, the lead author and an associate member of Moffitt’s Drug Discovery Department, said in a news release. “By enabling the diversifiable production of these compounds on a gram scale, we can now support more extensive biological research and medicinal chemistry efforts.”

This new synthesis method employs a bioinspired photooxygenation-allylic hydroperoxide rearrangement sequence, simplifying the introduction of functional groups during the final stages of synthesis. This approach not only ensures scalability but also enables the concise creation of various withanolides from a single synthesis route. This process eliminates the dependency on plant extraction, which is both time-consuming and limited by the natural availability of these compounds.

Withanolides offer a multi-faceted attack approach against cancer cells, targeting multiple cellular pathways. They can disrupt cancer cell division, compromise cellular structures, modulate the immune system and potentially increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Significantly, withanolides have demonstrated efficacy against various cancers, including breast, lung, colon and prostate cancers.

Moreover, withanolides may offer a solution to the pressing issue of drug resistance in cancer therapy. Since cancer cells often develop resistance to conventional treatments over time, the unique action mechanisms of withanolides could help maintain their effectiveness where other treatments fail.

“Now that we have a reliable method to produce withanolides, we can focus our studies on creating new therapeutics to help cancer patients,” added Lopchuk.