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Goyazensolide from Piptocoma rufescence inhibits NF-κB in vitro and tumor development in vivo

Research Scholar

Ulyana Muñoz Acuña, Pharmacy (Sweden)
Jennifer Wittwer, Co-Researcher
Qi Shen, Co-Researcher
Yulin Ren, Co-Researcher
Daniel Lantvit, Co-Researcher
A. Douglas Kinghorn, Co-Researcher
Steven Swanson, Co-Researcher
Esperanza Carcache de Blanco, Faculty Mentor


Ulyana Muñoz Acuña obtained her Master of Pharmacy from Uppsala University in Sweden.  A short summer course in ethnobotany, followed by field studies, led her to pursue research in phytochemistry at the City University of New York, where she finished her doctoral degree in biology. She has always had an interest in pharmacognosy and natural products research, and is currently a postdoctoral researcher in Carcache de Blanco's laboratory at The Ohio State University.

What is the issue or problem addressed in your research?

Cancer affects 12.7 million people worldwide, and it is estimated that the incidence of the disease will rise due to increased aging population, burden health care, and society in the future. Rapid genetic changes in cancer cells lead to the evolution of modified subpopulation of cells that survive and develop mechanism of resistance against existing therapies. Thus, new effective treatment strategies are urgently needed. The transcription factor NF-κB is involved in inflammation and tumor promotion. Inhibitors of the NF-κB pathway decrease the transcription of genes, and compromise the survival and proliferation of tumor cells; hence, it is a promising target for new pharmacological agents.

What methodology did you use in your research?

Our research focuses on the evaluation of natural products for anticancer, antidiabetic, and antiinflammatory activity using target cell based in vitro assays, including the screening for NF-κB inhibitors. Search of new potent inhibitors from natural sources requires sampling organisms from areas of high biodiversity. Thus we study fungal, plant, and cyanobacterial samples with great potential as sources of anticancer agents using a NF-κB assay. The biological effects and the mechanism of action of the active leads are characterized by biochemical and molecular techniques including cell flow cytometry, immunochemistry, and enzymatic evaluation. The antitumor activity is evaluated using animal models and the effect is compared to chemotherapy presently used in clinical practice.

What are the purpose/rationale and implications of your research?

Our results show that natural products can provide leads for drug discovery.

A recent review shows that about 30% of all small molecules in clinical practice are natural products. In the past, secondary metabolites and analogs from plants such as Catharantus roseus, Podophyllum peltatum and Taxus brevifolia provided effective anticancer treatments against leukemia and breast cancer. Thus NF-κB inhibitors from natural sources might provide effective agents that could be used alone or in combination therapy for cancer to improve current treatment outcomes and disease survival.