The Journal of Natural Products is honoring the signiﬁcant accomplishments of Professor Susan Band Horwitz with a Special Issue. Several of the contributed manuscripts highlight the profound impact of Horwitz’s discovery of the mechanism of action of taxol (paclitaxel, Taxol®), on the ﬁelds of natural products, cancer pharmacology, and clinical oncology for almost 40 years. Taxol and later generation derivatives continue to be mainstays in the treatment of many types of cancer.
Horwitz grew up in Boston and after graduating from Bryn Mawr College, received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Brandeis University. She was interested in natural products as a source of new cancer treatment drugs. At Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, her laboratory studied taxol, a diterpenoid isolated from the yew plant, Taxus brevifolia. In the late 1970s, Dr. Horwitz discovered taxol killed cancer cells by stimulating the growth of microtubules and stabilizing the cell structures that the cancer cells are unable to divide and multiply.
“The chemical structure of taxol is unique, and it looked extremely interesting to me…Within a month, we knew that we had a very interesting molecule that was doing something to cells, which no one else had seen occur with a small molecule. It was very exciting,” she said.
Today, Taxol® is an important antitumor drug, FDA-approved for the treatment of ovarian, breast and lung carcinomas. Horwitz also has made significant contributions to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying taxol resistance in tumor cells. These drugs have improved and prolonged the lives of millions of cancer patients.
This Special Issue in honor of Professor Susan Band Horwitz was edited by Professors Susan L. Mooberry, David G. I. Kingston, Amos B. Smith III, Steven M. Swanson, and Mansukh C. Wani.
“This special issue represented a major contribution to the literature on taxane anticancer agents and tubulin inhibitors, although other topics were also included. It featured several papers co-authored by leading female investigators in the natural products field in both the U.S. and Europe,” said Professor Doug Kinghorn, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Natural Products.