Tomikazu Sasaki

Chemistry

The Sasaki group is developing novel medical and food/supplement technologies based on artemisinin, a natural product isolated from Artemisia annua L. Artemisinin is a part of the current standard treatment for malaria infection in humans. Artemisinin contains an endoperoxide group that reacts with intracellular iron to generate toxic radical species. Cancer cells undergoing rapid proliferation intake large quantities of the essential nutrient iron through up-regulation of transferrin receptor. Artemisinin has demonstrated highly selective cytotoxicity towards cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. We have found that the anti-cancer activity of artemisinin can be greatly enhanced by delivering the compound directly to the cellular iron uptake machinery. Also, dimers of artemisinin have shown highly potent anticancer activities that are equivalent to that of Taxol in cell-based assays. Recently, we discovered that artemisinin derivatives induce a specific down-regulation of survivin, an anti-apoptotic protein critical to cancer cell survival.