Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 6 Issue 194 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 12-Jul-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 13-Jul-2004
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Scutellaria barbata, a mint-like Chinese herb, could be used to fight cancer

An extract found in the leaves of a mint-like Chinese herb could be used to fight cancer. A drug based on the extract of Scutellaria barbata works by destroying the blood vessels supplying tumors. Plus, it should have fewer side effects than conventional treatments, which attack healthy cells as well as cancerous cells ones.

Professor Alan McGown and colleagues at the University of Salford hope to test the drug in cancer patients soon. The drug has so far been tested in the laboratory on human cancer cells from tumours such as breast and lung cancers.

The plant works by attacking the tumor's blood vessels, starving the cancer to death by blocking its supply of oxygen and nutrients. Co-researcher Dr Sylvie Ducki said: "If you target the vessels you are stopping the 'food' getting to the tumour and the tumour from spreading. The drug is very selective - targeting only tumor vessels and leaving blood vessels supplying healthy tissues alone. "

Conventional treatments usually target tumour cells but also the normal cells. This causes a lot of side effects.

The scientists work for a charity called Kidscan, which was set up by the University of Salford to fund research into new treatments for childhood cancers. The team are hoping to secure more funding to test the drug in patients over the next few years.

There is much work to do before this treatment can be evaluated in patients. However, this area of research is very exciting.

All cancers require a blood supply if they are to survive and grow. A drug that target sn destroys blood vessels could be applicable to all forms of cancer in children and adults.

Dr Graham Cowling, from the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research in Manchester, said: "This sounds very exciting. There are a number of drugs being developed which work on a similar mechanism but they are all slightly different. The modern approach is to combine drugs together to get even better effects. The more drugs we can get into clinical trials the better. We look forward to it progressing on through to the next stage," he said.

A spokeswoman for Cancer Research UK said: "Scutellaria barbata has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat several illnesses including some cancers. So, this finding is very interesting and the active ingredients of the plant should definitely be investigated further."

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