A surprising look at the plants around us and how they've influenced our world.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Yew and cancer
Taxus brevifolia (Pacific Yew)
The Pacific Yew is a conifer found primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Its thin scaly back would probably go unnoticed if not for the fact that it contains a chemical called paclitaxel, or more commonly known as the chemotherapy drug Taxol. Taxol was discovered in the mid 1960s as part of a large-scale program to identify natural products which might be used against cancer. In 1992 Taxol was approved by the FDA for use in fighting breast, ovarian and lung (and a few other) cancers. This is a prime example of how a deep knowledge of biodiversity can lead to incredibly important applications.