Drug Development

Breast cancer has the highest record of cases in women and is the second leading cause of death among women, after lung cancer. Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive form of breast cancer, lacking estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor 2 receptors. Conventional breast cancer treatments rely on these specific markers for targeted hormonal therapy. Current treatments rely on surgery and chemotherapy. However, patients with TNBC have a poor prognosis and high rates of relapse. Taxane-based chemotherapies, such as paclitaxel have been widely studied and regarded to be successful in TNBC cohorts. Paclitaxel, widely used to treat several types of cancer, was also first discovered in nature, and is produced by Pacific Yew trees, or Taxus brevifolia. Interestingly, it was found that Taxomyces andreanae, an endophytic fungus growing on the Yew trees also produce the same secondary metabolite. Since then, several studies have reported endophytic fungal metabolites to have anticancer, antibacterial and antiviral properties. However, identifying endophytic fungal sources of existing and novel anticancer metabolites has the potential to offer better treatment alternatives and to increase metabolite production synthetically from multiple sources.

Preliminary screening was performed using 347 fungal extracts. Solid-phase extraction was done to fractionate extracts to identify the source of the active metabolite. Ongoing studies are being done to identify and determine the structure of the active metabolite(s).