Reader Jeff G. pointed out this blog post, which quotes the letters column in the most recent issue of Vanity Fair. The magazine ran a profile of Paris Hilton, about whom the less said the better, and quoted her in-the-same-category sister, Nicky, to the effect that she was working so hard, running multimillion-dollar companies and all, and what were the people writing about her doing at her age (21) that was so important?
The magazine published a letter from one Steven Sabes of Minnesota, who said:
. . . I would like to repond to that. When I was 21, I was busy working toward my Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Minnesota. I was the first to synthesize the compound okadaic acid -- shown to be the leading cause of breast cancer.
Well, I'm glad to see some organic chemistry make it into the pages of a magazine as empty-headed as Vanity Fair usually is. Face it, those of you readers who are fellow chem-geeks - our jobs might as well be voodoo hoodoo as far as the VF demographic is concerned. And Sabes and his okadaic acid work appear to be real. He's a graduate of Craig Forsyth's group at UMN.
The problem is, someone at the magazine seems to have mangled his point. Okadaic acid isn't the "leading cause" of breast cancer - it's a marine natural product that few people have ever encountered, unless they've had some really, really bad shellfish. It's a phosphatase inhibitor, which puts it in an interesting class of activity that's been hard to approach through traditional med-chem, and it's been used for many in vitro and in vivo research studies in cancer and other fields.
So I appreciate Sabes taking a whack at the Hilton sisters, and letting people know that organic synthesis actually exists. I just wish that his meaning had stayed intact.