REFERENCES to the biological properties of marine organisms date back to antiquity1. For example, hieroglyphics on the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ti (approximately 2700 BC) described the poisonous puffer fish Tetraodon stellatus. Perhaps the earliest recorded use of a marine organism in primitive medical practice occurred when the Roman, Plinius Secundus (AD 29-79), recommended that the sting unit of the stingray be ground up and used for treatment of toothache and in obstetrics. The first modern pharmacological and chemical studies of a substance from a marine animal probably involved tetrodotoxin from the poisonous puffer fish (for leading references see refs. 2 and 3). In recent years, extracts from certain sponges and coelenteratas have been shown to have antibiotic properties4-8. There have also been indications that marine invertebrates produce various other potentially medically useful components9-11. Most important from the standpoint of cancer chemotherapy have been observations that starfish meal12-14 and the peanut worm Bonellia fulginosa15,16 and that partially purified material from certain sea cucumbers [Echinodermata] have antitumour activity against sarcoma-180 and Krebs-2 ascites tumour10,17-19. Also certain clam18 (Mollusca) extracts and material from oysters have antitumour properties9-11.
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