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A1. The History of Taxol




A large scale screening of various natural chemicals was initiated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the hope of discovering and isolating new anticancer drugs.


One such extract showed remarkable activity against a broad range of different tumours.


Wani and Wall working for the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina managed to isolate the active compound from the bark of the Pacific yew tree (Taxus Brevifolia)


Wani and Wall report on the structure of taxol in Journal of the American Chemical Society4.   There conclusion was based on X-ray crystallographic data.


Horwitz and co-workers discover that taxol's mode of action is unique5.   This generated intense interest in taxol as a potential drug candidate.


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) commence phase I clinical trials with taxol in short supply.   Environmentalists raise concerns about the destruction of ancient yew trees further restricting supplies.


Entry in Beilstein Registry Database (BSN 1420456) (Last updated 26/04/96)


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) investigations at the John Hopkins Oncology Centre indicate that taxol is effective at fighting advanced ovarian cancer.  30 percent of previously treated patients showed partial or complete responses to the drug.


10-deacetylbaccatin III, a precursor of taxol lacking the C-13 side chain. and the C10 acetoxy group , discovered in the twigs and needles of the European Yew tree (Taxus baccata).  Semi-synthesis allows the production of taxol on a fairly large scale9.

Dec 1992

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve the use of taxol for treatment of patients suffering from advanced refractory (treatment resistant) ovarian cancer.  The prohibitive cost of taxol prompts several research to research methods of synthesis.

Apr 1994

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve the use of taxol for treatment of metastatic breast cancer and for breast cancer that has recurred within 6 months of initial chemotherapy treatment.

Oct 1995

K.C. Nicolaou11,12,13 working at the Scripps Research Institute and R.A. Holton15,16 finalise their complete synthesises of taxol.


Taxol is Bristol-Myers Squibb's strongest performer with sales increasing by 62%.


S.J. Danishefsky17 finalises a third stereoselective synthesis of taxol.

1997 onwards

Various groups including the Magnus researchers at Austin, Texas, and the Wender group at Stanford18,19,20,21 are conducting research into the use of pinene as a precursor to taxol and research into the development of superior agents.