The fight against cancer has found some support from something that we stomp over: dirt. I love ‘discoveries’ like this because I hope it’ll make people aware of how important biodiversity is.
The bark of certain yew trees can yield a medicine that fights cancer. Now scientists find the dirt that yew trees grow in can supply the drug as well, suggesting a new way to commercially harvest the medicine.
Scientists originally isolated the drug paclitaxel—now commonly known as Taxol—in 1967 from the bark of Pacific yew trees (Taxus brevifolia) in a forest near the Mount St. Helens in Washington. This yew also yields related compounds known as taxanes that can be converted to paclitaxel. Research since then has revealed other yew species generate paclitaxel and taxanes as well, as do some fungi and certain hazelnut varieties