Dr. Claudia Ospina

University of Puerto Rico, Cayey Campus


“Drug discovery of novel anticancer compounds from Puerto Rican medicinal plants”

Project Summary

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in USA, preceded by cardiovascular disease according to World Health Organization (WHO) reports. Recent studies revealed that approximately 60% of cancer patients use vitamins or herbs as chemotherapeutics. However, in most of the plant species there is little information about the chemical constituents responsible for its anticancer activity. Specifically, the Caribbean plants have been less studied than those from Africa, India and Europe. Therefore, our rationale comes from the literature and from our own study that Puerto Rican and Caribbean plants provide an important source of new leads or probes for in depth investigation as new cancer therapeutics. Our hypothesis is that extracts of native and endemic plants from Puerto Rico will provide new lead compounds with potent anticancer activity. The overall goal of the proposed project is to discover and characterize novel compounds from medicinal plants with potential therapeutic application to treat cancer. The objective is to investigate and analyze the pharmacologic effects of chemical constituents of selected medicinal plant species from Puerto Rico. The specific aims of this project are to assess the therapeutic potential of extracts from select plant species in different cancer cell lines, to isolate and characterize the secondary metabolites of the plant extracts responsible for the biological activity against cell lines, and to study the major reasons of cell proliferation inhibition induced by plant cell extracts. The plants will be collected and extracted with solvents of different polarities. We will perform a bioactivity-guide fractionation of extracts using different chromatographic techniques to obtain the compounds with the most potent anticancer activity. The bioactivity will be determined using cell proliferation assays to further assessment of cell cycle progression and apoptosis. The proposed research will impact the area of drug discovery research by adding new knowledge on the role of natural products as potential drugs against cancer cells.