DV-07-010 Discovery of natural anticancer compounds from a marine mollusk

Mary E. Rumpho-Kennedy
Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology

5735 Hitchner Hall
University of Maine
Orono, ME 04469
P. 207.581.2806

Like many vast and diverse ecosystems on Earth, the sea represents an oasis of potential medicines and healing substances, including anticancer compounds. For example, the toxic chemicals generated by some organisms as protection against predators have been shown to exhibit anti-tumor activity. University of Maine professor Mary Rumpho studied the sea slug Elysia chlorotica, a unique and uncommon shell-less snail found in Northeastern salt marshes. This particular sea slug coats itself with a bitter mucus that is unpalatable to predators; this same mucus is similar to that of a related sea slug with proven anticancer properties. Dr. Rumpho used high-resolution biochemical methods to separate and analyze extracts from the sea slug and its algal food source. None of the extracts were anti-cancer kahalalides. Rumpho hypothesized that the compounds are bacteria-derived, and the cooler northern climates where Maine sea slugs reside prevent bacterial symbiotic associations.

Read more about Rumpho-Kennedy’s research in UMaine Today.

1-year project, 2007
Total: $4,500