WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. researchers said on Wednesday they had synthesized noxious chemicals from rare corals that have shown promise in fighting cancer. They said they hoped this meant medicine would not be dependent on the rare sea creatures for the chemicals, which seem to have strong effects against cancer cells. K.C. Nicolaou and colleagues at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, said they used a simple vegetable oil known as carvone, found in dill seeds for example, to synthesize the chemicals. One of the compounds is called eleutherobin, and Nicolaou said it looked similar to Bristol Myers- -Squibb's Taxol, a top-selling cancer drug, in the way it worked. Both prevent cells from the uncontrolled division that marks tumor growth. Writing in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, they said eleutherobin was found in rare soft corals found in the Indian Ocean off Australia. Many corals use toxic chemicals to protect themselves from grazing marine life. A second group of chemicals was isolated from Mediterranean stoloniferan corals, which have also shown anti-cancer properties. Taxol is one of the best-known anti-cancer agents to have come from nature. First isolated from rare Pacific yew trees, it can now be made in the laboratory.