Chinese herb bioactive ingredient shows real anti-cancer benefits

Triptolide (TPL) is the active ingredient of a Chinese herb (Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. F) frequently used in Chinese medicine and researchers at the Dept. of Pharmacology and Biotechnology, University of Bologna, Italy have shown that it has robust and promising anti-cancer activity. Apparently the bioactive ingredient can switch off specific RNA production in cancer cells, even killing them. Its target is RNA polymerase. (Manzo SG, Zhou ZL, Wang YQ, Marinello J, He JX, Li YC, Ding J, Capranico G, Miao ZH. Cancer Res. 2012 Oct 15;72(20):5363-73).

This is not the first time such action has been shown. In 2011, Wang Y, Lu JJ, He L, Yu Q. at the Dept. of Pharmacology, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, showed that TPL stopped cancer genes being transcribed and caused cancer cell DNA damage. Since 2003 it has been known to have immunosuppressive, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

The herb is called ‘The Thunder God Vine’ in Western Medicine. The bioactive ingredient was poorly water soluble, which made its usage as a ‘drug’ difficult. In 2011 a multi-disciplined team at the University of Minnesota tested a water soluble analogue, called minnelide, with pancreatic cancer and achieved remarkable results. 

Rohit Chugh, M.D., Ashok K. Saluja, M.D., publishing in Science Translational Medicine,  concluded after in vitro and in vivo (mouse) experiments that ‘ Minnelide is more effective when compared to other potential therapeutics against pancreatic cancer’, .. and … ‘Our data suggest that minnelide has the potential to emerge as an effective therapy against not only pancreatic cancer but also many other cancers. In this regard, the Phase I trial of minnelide against pancreatic cancer is currently being planned and is scheduled to start by December 2012’. After 40 days there were no signs of tumours in the mice.

But it seems to have the potential to work with many different cancers. For example, in 2013 with leukaemia cells (Huang M, Zhang H, Liu T, Tian D, Gu L, Zhou M; Emory University School of Medicine; Mol Cancer Ther. 2013 Feb;12(2):184-94.) And scientists at John Hopkins School of Medicine state that ‘TPL has been shown to block the growth of all 60 U.S. National Cancer Institute cell lines at very low doses, and even causes some of those cell lines to die.’ (Natural News)

April - June Cancer Watch 2013
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