Narrator: This is Science Today. A toxin from a poisonous mushroom is showing great promise as an anti-tumor drug that can selectively destroy cancer cells without harming healthy ones. Trevor McMorris, a professor of chemistry at the University of California, San Diego, says this anti-tumor compound is derived from a wood rotting fungi known as the jack-o-lantern mushroom.
McMorris: The mushroom, by the way, is fairly common in this country. The drug is obtained from this parent compound, illudin, which is found in the mushroom. Actually, the amount in the mushroom growing in the wild is quite small - the amount of the drug. But when the mushroom is grown in culture, in the lab, we have been able to obtain much higher yields.
Narrator: That's good news when it comes to production on a large scale. Meanwhile, McMorris says the compound is being tested in nationwide clinical trials against a variety of cancers.
McMorris: It has gone through Phase 1 and they have observed signs of anti-tumor activity with tolerable toxicity and now the National Cancer Institute are pushing ahead to Phase 2.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.