Sunday, November 30, 2014

'Magic Berries' Pack Phorbol Punch

Could plant extracts still surprise us? "Magical rainforest berry kills tumors with single injection" read last month's FiercePharma headline. The Guardian reinforced the hype, narrowing down the berry's source (Queensland, Australia) and the compound: EBC-46*, promoted by local biotech QBiotics and tested by colleagues at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

Digging down to the PLoS One article behind the research, I uncovered the drug's structure and proposed mode of action. Now, where have I seen a compound like that before? Oh, right! Ingenol. Both compounds belong to the phorbol ester family, and both appear to activate protein kinase C, spurring tissue necrosis and tumor shrinkage when directly injected into mouse skin cancer lesions.

The authors indicate that they're preparing GMP product for Phase I human trials; whether that's derived from magical rainforest berries - or just plain process chemistry - hasn't been disclosed.
Stay tuned.

*The published structure doesn't match the molecular weight (562.25 g/mol) the PLoS authors suggest, and no stereochemistry is specified. I'm guessing it's structurally similar to phorbol, and I've gently highlighted in red a hydrogen that's probably supposed to be a methyl group.


  1. So why do you suspect that H in particular should be as methyl group?

  2. Based on the methylation patterns of phorbol and ingenol core skeletons. Doesn't mean I'm right!

  3. I bet I know how they this was found: