PAT & TOM LEESON / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAT & TOM LEESON / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Pacific yew tree. Trunk of the Pacific or Western yew tree, Taxus brevifolia, the source of the anti-cancer drug taxol. Taxol is extracted from the bark 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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