- Research scientists in Australia think they may have found a cure for colorectal cancer.
- After 10 years of research, they are producing very promising results.
- The source? Mucus produced by the common White Rock Shell Sea Snail.
Research scientists have long known that cures for deadly diseases can be discovered in the humblest (and least likely) of places. After all, Penicillin came from moldy bread accidentally left in a petri dish over the weekend.
But, sea snails curing cancer?
Apparently. It seems that the mucus produced by the White Rock Shell sea snail, common to the shores of Australia and New Zealand, contains chemicals found to be effective at fighting off colorectal cancer.
According to senior lead scientist Professor Catherine Abbott, from Flinders University in Australia, “After a decade of work, we have found an active compound derived from the substance produced by the mollusk’s gland which could be used as a preventative in bowel cancer. We’re very excited about these latest results and hope to attract investment from a pharma company to work on a new drug to reduce development of colorectal cancer tumors.”
The mollusk, with the scientific name of Dicathais Orbita, first caught the attention of researchers when it was observed that the mucus secreted by the sea snail displayed unusually effective antibacterial properties when discharged over a batch of its fertilized eggs. But, the discovery could lead to an even more spectacular result if the compounds isolated in the purple, viscous liquid are found to be effective at preventing, rather than just treating, colorectal cancer.
According to the World Health Organization, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, with over 862,000 victims dying from the disease in 2018 alone.
The breakthrough of this discovery is the way isolated chemical proteins contained in the sea snail secretions have already demonstrated the ability to kill off cancer cells before they grow. This technology could lead to an oral medication targeting the colon and preventing the spread of cancer cells.
“In this latest research we have not only shown that a specific snail compound can prevent the formation of tumors in a colon cancer model, but we were also able to use sophisticated technology to trace the metabolism of the compound inside the human body” said Southern Cross University Professor Kirsten Benkendorff. “This is very important for drug development because it helps demonstrate the absence of potentially toxic side-effects.”
The sea snail compound comes from a class called “indoles” which are commonly found in plants and, more and more, in marine environments yielding up some hearty antidotes to threats indigenous animals are faced with in some of the harshest conditions on Earth.