As a result of bioassay–guided fractionation, betulinic acid, a pentacyclic triterpene, was identified as a melanoma–specific cytotoxic agent. In follow–up studies conducted with athymic mice carrying human melanomas, tumour growth was completely inhibited without toxicity. As judged by a variety of cellular responses, antitumour activity was mediated by the induction of apoptosis. Betulinic acid is inexpensive and available in abundant supply from common natural sources, notably the bark of white birch trees. The compound is currently undergoing preciinicai development for the treatment or prevention of malignant melanoma.
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Studies conducted with laboratory animals were approved by the University of Illinois at Chicago Institutional Review Board and conform with NIH guidelines.
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Pisha, E., Chai, H., Lee, I. et al. Discovery of betulinic acid as a selective inhibitor of human melanoma that functions by induction of apoptosis. Nat Med 1, 1046–1051 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1038/nm1095-1046
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