Ras is a protein that works as a molecular switch, triggering biochemical events inside certain cells that lead to cancer. The gene that produces ras gained notoriety as the first known oncogene -- a gene that can cause cancer.
Six years ago, Japanese scientists discovered that rasfonin, a compound isolated from a fungus, selectively destroys ras-dependent cells. Normal cells were not harmed.
With the prospect that rasfonin could lead to a new family of anti-cancer drugs, scientists began searching for a way to make enough rasfonin for tests.
Scientists now are reporting development of that simpler method in a report scheduled for the Aug. 23 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Robert K. Boeckman Jr. and colleagues explain that the only existing synthesis was complicated and not easily adapted for producing larger amounts of rasfonin. Their method involves only 16 steps (compared to 23 in the previous method) and produces 67 percent more rasfonin.
Reference: "Toward the development of a General Chiral Auxiliary. Enantioselective Alkylation and a New Catalytic Asymmetric Addition of Silyloxyfurans: Application to a Total Synthesis of (-)-Rasfonin." Journal of the American Chemical Society
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