In the Sept./Oct. 1991 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, you featured a rather extraordinary article about Taxol, an anticancer drug. Bristol-Myers Squibb had a license at that time to use the taxol process.
According to the article, Taxol killed cells in a way that researchers had never seen before--it blocked cells just when they were going to divide, inhibiting the replication of cells. Taxol binds to microtubules in the cell so they can't form spindles necessary to replicate.
Susan Horwitz at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Dr. Robert Holton at Florida State University were working on creating a totally synthetic form of Bacatin III and Taxol. Whatever happened to that research, and don't you think it's time for an update in the SatEvePost?
I am wondering what happened to all of the 20 million yew trees planted in those nurseries in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan?
Every time the telephone rings I get anxious--I am waiting on a pathologist's report on a needle biopsy today on a lump in my breast.
Love your magazine!
Audrey E. Glass
Front Royal, Virginia
Editor's note: The Saturday Evening Post Society planted Pacific yew trees in the hope they might someday yield lifesaving cancer medicines. While the trees have grown beautifully, Dr. Robert Holton and his team at Florida State University discovered a way to produce a synthetic form of Taxol in the lab. As a result, the collection of yew bark--from which the compound was initially extracted--became unnecessary.
Taxol, manufactured and marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb in the mid-1990s, is FDA-approved for treating ovarian, breast and other cancers. In 1999, the compound reportedly was the top anticancer drug in the world. A generic form (named paclitaxel) was introduced in 2001.
Dr. Holton's success in developing Taxol chemistry has since led to the synthesis of dozens of Taxol derivatives, some of which are showing even more promise in early trials in mice than the parent molecule.
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