Indian Journal of Cancer Home 

[Download PDF]
Year : 2009  |  Volume : 46  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 243--244

Marine life: New hope for cancer drugs

R Jain 
 Herbal Business Development Department of Piramal Life Sciences Limited, Nirlon Complex, Goregaon (E), Mumbai - 400 063, India

Correspondence Address:
R Jain
Herbal Business Development Department of Piramal Life Sciences Limited, Nirlon Complex, Goregaon (E), Mumbai - 400 063

How to cite this article:
Jain R. Marine life: New hope for cancer drugs.Indian J Cancer 2009;46:243-244

How to cite this URL:
Jain R. Marine life: New hope for cancer drugs. Indian J Cancer [serial online] 2009 [cited 2021 Feb 26 ];46:243-244
Available from:

Full Text


The world's ocean covers 99 percent of the living space, that is, a total of 71 percent of the earth's surface. Life, most likely, first evolved in the sea, but our contact with most ocean life is very recent. Nowadays, this unfamiliar environment plays an important role in drug discovery programs. The chemical diversity of the marine ecosystem, starting from simple linear peptides to complex macrocyclic polyethers, draws us toward the discovery of new marine natural products (MNPs) in various therapeutic areas like cancer, inflammation, microbial infections, and various other deadly diseases. [1] Cancer is the biggest challenge for the current century, where marine organisms show a new hope to fight against these dangerous diseases. Interestingly after tunicate cyclodepsipeptide 'Didemnin', the first marine compound, entered human clinical trials in the US for the treatment of cancer, several marine compounds like Sponge Polyketide 'Calyculin A' (a selective inhibitor of protein phosphatase 1) isolated from Discodermia calyx; 'Bryostatin 1' a Macrocyclic lactone isolated from bryozoan sp. Bugula neritina ; tunicate compounds including cyclic peptide 'Vitilevuamide' and ' Diazonamide', cyclic depsipeptides 'Dehydrodidemnin B (Aplidine) and Didemnin B', and tetrahydroisoquinolone alkaloid 'Ecteinascidin 743', respectively, isolated from Didemnin cucliferum, Diazona angulata , Trididemnum solidum, and Ecteinascidia turbinate have entered clinical trials. [2]

Ascididemnin, Cryptophycins, Curacin A, CGX-1160, CGX-1007dictyodendrins, Dolastatin-10, Discodermolide, Eleutherobin, E7389, Girolline, GTS-21, HTI-286, ILX 651, IPL-576, Kahalalide F, KRN-7000, Laulimalide, Manoalide, Peloruside A, Spisulosine, Soblidotin, Squalamine, Sarcodictyin, salicylihalimides A, and Thiocoraline are a few more marine anticancer compounds in the long-term clinical study. [3],[4] Presently, the Ara-C compound, isolated from the sponge Cryptotheca crypta has reached the market and is used with other anticancer drugs in the treatment of acute myelocytic leukemia (AML) and lymphomas, while antiviral Ara-A is another marine compound in the market.

Information on marine sources is very scarce, thus, an in-depth study of marine life will surely decipher the sustainable exploitation of this environment for human healthcare. Marine resource is immeasurable and extraordinary for the discovery of new anticancer drugs; therefore, a more rigorous study is needed to explore MNPs. Rapid advances and recent researches on the mechanisms responsible for the neoplastic disease have resulted in the identification of novel molecular targets. These new targets broaden the scope for antitumor marine natural product research. Moreover, modern molecular mechanism-based screening methods add immensely to drug discovery programs.

Nowadays, for their therapeutic potential, marine organisms are getting great recognition for their importance to human life. However, the fact cannot be denied that growing barriers like lack of versatile infrastructure and global cooperation between clinical and basic research, along with the ever increasing complexities involved in conducting clinical research, are making it more difficult to translate new knowledge into practical applications. Hence, more concentration is required for the study and research of MNPs. This interesting study of marine organisms ensures drug discovery and economic opportunities.


1Rawat DS, Joshi MC, Joshi P, Atheaya H. Marine peptides and related compounds in clinical trials. Anticancer Agents Med Chem 2006;6:33-40.
2Simmons TL, Andrianasolo E, McPhail K, Flatt P, Gerwick WH. Marine natural products as anticancer drugs. Mol Cancer Ther 2005;4:333-42.
3Jain R, Sonawane S, Mandrekar N. organisms: Potential source for drug discovery. Curr Sci 2008;94:292.
4Singh R, Sharma M, Joshi P. Rawat DS. Clinical status of anti-cancer agents derived from marine sources. Anticancer Agents Med Chem 2008:8:603-17.