Taxol from filberts/hazelnuts?

truffler1635 at truffler1635 at
Fri Mar 31 11:53:06 EST 2000

The following article is from The Oregonian, March 30, 2000, p D1


The University of Portland research is the first to find paclitaxel used
to make Taxol, in a plant other than the yew


	A small amount of the active chemical of the top-selling cancer drug
Taxol has been found in hazelnuts, according to researchers at the
University of Portland.
	It is unclear, however, whether the discovery will be anything more
than interesting. Oregon produces virtually all of the nation's
commercial hazelnut crop.
	Taxol, which brought manufacturer Bristol-Meyers Squibb $1.48
billion last year, is now made exclusively with chemicals from yew tree
needles. Taxol is used to treat ovarian cancer, breast cancer and the
AIDS-related cancer Kaposi's sarcoma.
	It shows promise in treating psoriasis, polycystic kidney disease,
multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease, among other diseases.
	The Portland study - partially financed by the Oregon Hazelnut
Commission - is the first report that the drug's active chemical, known
generically as paclitaxel, is present in another plant, researchers
	It takes several of the slow-growing Pacific yew trees to make a
small amount of taxol commercially. It takes even more hazelnuts: gram
for gram, hazelnuts carry one-tenth of the chemical that yew trees do,
according to the research.
	In addition, it took nearly 30 years after paclitaxel was found in
yew trees to get Taxol on the market; and this latest discovery still
hasn't moved out of the lab.
	"I'm not sure I see what the advantage of the hazelnut over the yew
tree would be," said oncologist Clifford Hudis, chief of the Breast
cancer medicine Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer center.
	University of Portland researchers, though, hope the discovery could
reduce the cost of Taxol and make it more readily available.
	"This is potentially good news for cancer patients," said Angela M.
Hoffman, a member of the research team. She presented the study
Wednesday at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in
San Francisco.
	But people needn't line up at the state's hazelnut orchards just
yet. Eating hazelnuts has no cancer-prevention or cancer-fighting
	"Won't do any good at all, because Taxol is not active orally," said
Robert Holton, a Florida State University chemist who gets royalties
from Bristol-Myers for his method of synthesizing the drug.
	The study began as a search for a compound that gave some hazelnut
trees resistance to a disease known as eastern filbert blight. During a
chemical analysis, one of the chemicals identified was paclitaxel. It
was isolated from the tree branches, nuts and nutshells, the study said.
	"Having a new source of paclitaxel is compelling," said Steve Tighe,
senior pharmaceutical analyst at Merill Lynch. "But many questions must
be answered before anyone can say whether it can be used against cancer.
	"Is it economical or even possible to extract paclitaxel from
hazelnuts commercially? Will regulators approve it? How many companies
would get the license to do it?"

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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