The National Cancer Institute and Natural Product-Based Drug Discovery in Africa

  • John A. Beutler
  • Gordon M. Cragg
  • David J. Newman


In the experience of the US National Cancer Institute, African biodiversity has been the source of several promising anticancer drugs. Analogues of the combretastatins are in advanced clinical trials, while conjugates of maytansine analogues with trastuzumab are showing great promise in the treatment of HER2-positive forms of breast cancer which have proved resistant to treatment with trastuzumab and lapatinib. Since 1987, the NCI, through contracts with Missouri Botanical Garden and Coral Reef Research Foundation, has undertaken plant and marine organism collections, respectively, in several African countries. In most instances, agreements based on the NCI Letter of Collection or Memorandum of Understanding were signed with the source-country authorities or qualified organizations, but in two cases where such agreements were not finalized, the necessary collection and export permits were obtained, and the NCI is totally committed to the terms of the LOC. The discovery of the anti-HIV-active compound michellamine B has emphasized the need for source countries to establish policies governing the exploration of their biological diversity for the discovery and development of novel bioactive molecules.


Source Country Preclinical Development Renal Cancer Cell Line Contract Collection Cameroon Government 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Combretastatin A-1 phosphate


Combretastatin A-4 phosphate


United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity


Centre National D’Applications des Recherches Pharmaceutiques, Madagascar


South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research


Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis

DM1 and DM4

Maytansanoid derivatives conjugated to carrier molecules


Developmental Therapeutics Program, formerly Cancer Chemotherapy National Service Center (CCNSC)


US Food and Drug Administration


Human Immunodeficiency Virus


NCI Letter of Collection


Monoclonal Antibody


Multidrug Resistance


Missouri Botanical Garden


NCI Memorandum of Understanding


US National Cancer Institute


National Institute for Diabetes Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NIH


US National Institutes of Health


DTP Natural Products Branch


Natural Products Repository Frederick, Maryland, USA


NIH Office of Technology Transfer


Source-Country Government


Source-Country Scientific Organization


US Department of Agriculture



The authors gratefully acknowledge the collaboration of the permitting authorities in source countries where collections for the NCI were performed, both in the early (1960–1982) and more recent (1986–present) programs. These include Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.


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Copyright information

© Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • John A. Beutler
    • 1
  • Gordon M. Cragg
    • 2
  • David J. Newman
    • 2
  1. 1.Molecular Targets Laboratory, Center for Cancer ResearchFrederickUSA
  2. 2.Natural Products Branch, Developmental Therapeutics ProgramFrederickUSA

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