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Branch of Pacific yew, source of taxol

Branch of Pacific yew, source of taxol

B640/0090

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Credit

DAVID NUNUK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DAVID NUNUK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Pacific yew. Branch of the Pacific or western yew tree, Taxus brevifolia, the source of the anti- cancer drug taxol. Taxol is extracted from the bark (seen here peeled back) of the tree, which is found in old-growth forests along the northwest coast of North America. The drug is effective in restricting various cancers, particularly of the ovary, breast, skin and colon. Unfortunately, the tree is scarce in the wild, and large amounts of taxol are needed for treatment. Production may be increased by cultivating the trees to harvest their bark, or by discovering methods of either artificially synthesising the drug or extracting it from the trees' branches and needles too.

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