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UH Researcher IDs Peptide Active Against Certain Cancers

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A University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo professor and researcher is part of a team making strides in the fight against cancer.

Associate member of the Cancer Biology Program at the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center and professor the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at UH-Hilo Shugeng Cao in his lab. (Photo courtesy of University of Hawaiʻi)

Shugeng Cao, associate member of the Cancer Biology Program at the UH Cancer Center and professor the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at UH-Hilo on the Big Island, discovered a rare bacterium that is active against certain cancers. The bacterium Cao identified, Lentzea flaviverrucosa, produces a peptide called petrichorin A, which the research team proved is active against certain cancers.

“Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Hawaiʻi and nationally, after cardiovascular disease,” said Cao in a press release. “If petrichorin A were developed successfully, people in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific would benefit from our drug therapies.”

Petrichorin A contains special amino acids, and each amino acid has a nitrogen-nitrogen bond. The peptide was evaluated for anti-cancer activity against multiple cancer cell lines.


According to the press release, the researchers conducted a preliminary test and discovered that petrichorin A was not toxic to a normal human cell line. With this observation, Cao and his team showed that petrichorin A was active against ovarian cancer, fibrosarcoma, prostate cancer and T-cell leukemia, highlighting the importance of including the peptide in future research of pharmaceutical design and discovery programs.

Cao and co-investigators Chunshun Li and Xiaohua Wu, in collaboration with Joshua Blodgett of Washington University in St. Louis, had their findings recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Wu is a senior research associate at Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy and Li, a previous postdoctoral fellow in Cao’s lab, is a scientist at Antheia Inc.


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