Jul 20, 2007

Yondelis: from the seas to the pharmacy

Yondelis (trabectedin, ecteinascidin-743, ET-743) is an anticancer natural product isolated from a marine organism, the tunicate Ecteinascidia turbinata. The compound was initially extracted from the naturally growing and farmed tunicate, but now it's manufactured by semi-synthesis from a structurally-related metabolite produced by the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens. It is likely that the actual producer of Yondelis is not the tunicate itself but some unknown, symbiotic bacteria living in close relationship to the tunicate. The drug is being developed by PharmaMar, a Spanish biopharmaceutical company subsidiary of the Zeltia Group. For several years, Yondelis has being studied in clinical trials for treatment of several cancer types.

This morning, finally, good news: the European Medicines Agency has recommended Yondelis be approved by the European Comission, which means that the drug should be available to treat soft tissue sarcomas by the end of the year. I want to cite the words of José María Fernández Sousa (president of Zeltia), taken from the PharmaMar press release:

“This is excellent news. Firstly for the patients and their families, since a new therapeutic option is now available. Also for the PharmaMar and Zeltia employees who have devoted long years of effort and dedication in pursuit of this challenge. It is also excellent news for Spanish science as well as for the investigators from all over the world who have participated in the clinical trials and believed in the therapeutic potential of compounds of marine origin.”

I completely agree with him. Yondelis is the first anticancer drug developed and produced by a Spanish biopharmaceutical company. Hope more are coming.

(Image: left, a cluster of Ecteinascidia turbinata, photo courtesy of PharmaMar; right, structure of Yondelis)

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