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Bacteria in soil can kill 'the most dangerous form of skin cancer,' OSU researchers say

“Mensacarcin has potent anticancer activity, with selectivity against melanoma cells,” said Sandra Loesgen, assistant professor of chemistry at OSU. “It shows powerful anti-proliferative effects in all tested cancer cell lines in the U.S. Cancer Institute’s cell line panel, but inhibition of cell growth is accompanied by fast progression into cell death in only a small number of cell lines, such as melanoma cells.” (File photo)

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A bacterium that lives in soil creates molecules that can kill "the most dangerous form of skin cancer," Oregon State University researches said Thursday.

"The molecule is a secondary metabolite, also known as a natural product, of Streptomyces bottropensis, and its properties are important because there are not many therapies that effectively manage melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer," OSU said in a statement.

There are 80,000 new melanoma cases each year, and 9,000 deaths.

The disease is more likely to afflict men, and the death rate is highest amongst people with white skin.

The researchers found that the compound called "mensacarcin" attacks the mitochondria in melanoma cells. Mitochondria create the energy for cells, and can also tell the cell to die.

“Mensacarcin has potent anticancer activity, with selectivity against melanoma cells,” said Sandra Loesgen, assistant professor of chemistry at OSU. “It shows powerful anti-proliferative effects in all tested cancer cell lines in the U.S. Cancer Institute’s cell line panel, but inhibition of cell growth is accompanied by fast progression into cell death in only a small number of cell lines, such as melanoma cells.”

Cancer cell mitochondria are structurally and functionally different from mitochondria of non-cancerous cells, the researchers noted.

THe findings were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Among the characteristics of mensacarcin: the molecule "can be obtained in large amounts from its producing organism."

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