Progress in the clinical development of new marine-derived anticancer compounds

Anticancer Drugs. 2004 Apr;15(4):321-9. doi: 10.1097/00001813-200404000-00003.


Naturally derived anticancer agents continue to be instrumental in the systemic therapeutic intervention against solid tumors and hematological malignancies. Such compounds now have a relevant role in contemporary models of combination with targeted agents, thus providing a rationale to consider nature as a valid tool to discover new innovative anticancer agents. The marine ecosystem has increasingly been the focus of interest for new discoveries in the field that are expected to be of significant therapeutic impact in cancer patients. A critical review of the integrated data generated in our marine-derived anticancer program seems to confirm such expentancies. ET-743 (Yondelis) represents the first new agent developed against advanced pretreated soft tissue sarcoma in the past 25 years, and also harbors activity in women bearing pretreated ovarian cancer and a solid potential in combination therapy. The lack of cumulative toxicities makes this compound suitable for long-lasting therapies, reversible transaminitis being the most prevalent toxicity. Aplidin has shown a positive therapeutic index in phase I trials and phase II studies are ongoing. In contrast to the lack of bone marrow toxicity, a set of translational results anticipates a potential in leukemia. Kahalalide F has also successfully completed the phase I program in solid tumors with evidence of activity in resistant tumors and phase II studies are under way. Finally, the mechanistic data generated in parallel with the clinical program confirms the potential of the marine ecosystem in the discovery of new agents acting against new cellular targets of relevance in cancer cell biology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating / isolation & purification
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating / therapeutic use
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Depsipeptides*
  • Dioxoles / isolation & purification
  • Dioxoles / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Isoquinolines / isolation & purification
  • Isoquinolines / pharmacology
  • Marine Biology*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Peptides / isolation & purification
  • Peptides / therapeutic use
  • Peptides, Cyclic / isolation & purification
  • Peptides, Cyclic / therapeutic use
  • Tetrahydroisoquinolines
  • Trabectedin


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating
  • Depsipeptides
  • Dioxoles
  • Isoquinolines
  • Peptides
  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • Tetrahydroisoquinolines
  • kahalalide F
  • Trabectedin
  • plitidepsin