University of Pittsburgh
December 12, 2004

First Synthesis of Rare Anticancer Compound Disorazole Performed by Pitt Researchers

Next step: Developing disorazole as a drug
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have accomplished the first synthesis of the rare natural anticancer compound disorazole, they announced in a paper titled "Total Synthesis of (-)-Disorazole C1," published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. This synthesis is critical for the continued study and pharmaceutical development of the substance.

"We are very excited about the potential of this compound," said Peter Wipf, University Professor of Chemistry and director of the Combinatorial Chemistry Center and the Center for Chemical Methodologies and Library Development at Pitt, who coauthored the paper with Pitt chemistry graduate student Tom Graham. "Disorazole is among the most potent antiproliferative agents known."

Disorazole was first identified in 1994 in the fermentation broth of the myxobacterium Sorangium cellulosum, but it is difficult to study in its natural form. Prior to Graham and Wipf's research, no viable method of synthesizing the compound existed.

Pharmaceutical companies have expressed interest in developing disorazole as an anticancer drug. Wipf and Graham are conducting studies of disorazole's anticancer potential in collaboration with Billy W. Day, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the University of Pittsburgh's School of Pharmacy.

The paper is available online at This research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.