This Little Epo Goes to Market

Epothilone B Ixempra

One of the very first articles I wrote for Elemental Discoveries (Issue 3 in March 1997, it was) was on the subject of a novel class of anticancer compound that had been isolated from soil bacteria. The article (archived now on Sciencebase) discussed the discovery of a total synthesis for the archetypal epothilone. Well, more than a decade since, and two decades after their initial discovery, the epothilones are about to enter the pharmaceutical market under the Bristol-Myers Squibb marque.

The epothilones that Gerhard Höfle and Hans Reichenbach discovered in myxobacteria block the somatic cell components known as microtubules, inhibiting cell division causing tumors to shrink or even disappear.

Bristol-Myers Squibb acquired the license for epothilone B for clinical testing. As of this month, US oncologists can prescribe epo B, under the tradename Ixempra, for metastatic breast cancer. European approval is anticipated for 2008.