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September 18, 2012
Hundreds of modern researchers and scientific research groups are working hard to find a cure or at least an effective technology to stop cancer, a deadly disease which is taking away millions of lives every year. Thousands of herbal remedies and medicinal plants, their compounds and properties have already been tested and studied very thoroughly in order to find some clues and learn to combat this terrible disease. There are a good number of effective natural solutions to reduce our risks of cancer and possibly prevent cancer development in our tissues. This summer, scientists reported about discovering a potentially new cancer treatment, a natural one. A group of American researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore published their findings suggesting that an ingredient in medicinal herb known as ‘death carrot’ (Thapsia garganica) has unique properties to target and destroy cancer cells, this way can grow into a next generation cancer treatment, natural and available to everyone.
Thapsia garganica is a small plant with yellow flowers native to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. It is considered to be poisonous to cattle and other animals, that is why it has got a name ‘death carrot’. Some species of this plant have been used in herbal medicine, mainly as a natural painkiller and as a purgative. Herbalists in ancient Greece used to recommend this plant as a natural solution to a variety of health conditions. Ancient Romans were using this herbal remedy to treat skin problems like cuts and bruises. In out times, it was discovered that Thapsia garganica is rich in a compound known as thapsigargin which can have a key to a new cancer treatment. It can kill developing cancer cells by interfering and destroying calcium balance in the cells. Moreover, according to the findings of American experts, this compounds can not only kill the developing cells, but also target those cells which can be especially vulnerable to harmful mutations.
It took about 15 years for the scientific team led by Samuel R. Denmeade, M.D., a leading oncology researcher at Johns Hopkins University to finalize their study aiming to find a new agent for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Thus, thapsigargin was extracted on the early stages of the research, and the specialists have spent quite a lot of time to find a way to generate an analog of this unique substance. It was discovered that thapsigargin works by penetrating the cells and blocking the function of calcium pumps, necessary for the cell survival. The scientists managed to modify the molecule of the substance by adding a new peptide chain, which helped preventing thapsigargin entering all cells. However, in case if the cells have PSMA enzyme common for prostate cancer cells, extra peptide chain falls out, so the substance can pass through cell membranes and destroy the cancer cell.
In contrast to traditional chemotherapy targeted only to cancer cells that are growing fast, this new cancer treatment technology goes far beyond and can destroy the cells around as potentially vulnerable ones. “You can envision it as a grenade. One guy pulls the pin, but it kills all the guys standing around,” Denmeade commented on the effects of thapsigargin. At the same time, he underlined that the effects of the substance can be considered local and result in no harm for neighboring healthy tissues. According to the report published this summer in Science Translational Medicine, a number of extensive animal studies and tests were extremely successful, that is why currently this new cancer treatment is about to be moved to clinical trials. Though the main findings are based on the effects of the treatment in PSMA enzyme linked to prostate cancer, tests and researches on other common types of cancer are also planned for the nearest future. Read more about the goals of this interesting research and the leader of the study in this publication.Author Info: Hi! My name is Carla and I am a 5th year medical student at HYMS. I am interested in alternative medicine and I have done months researching the topic of herbal medicine. Besides, I like interviewing people and learning more about their experiences with one or another type of herbal treatments. I am willing to contribute to this site with my knowledge, and I would be happy to help you out to the best of my ability with any specific questions or problems related to alternative medicine.