Drug from tropical Australian tree shrinks animal cancers

The blush wood tree from Australia, may offer hope of cancer treatment.

A drug made from the fruit of a tree from the rainforests of northern Australia has destroyed cancerous tumours in mice, scientists say.

The Blushwood tree, found on the Atherton Tablelands in tropical Queensland, produces a dark reddish/yellow berry with powerful seeds inside, which QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute scientist Dr Glen Boyle used to develop an experimental drug, called EBC-46.

He reports that a single injection of the drug directly into melanoma and cancers of the head, neck and colon in animals, destroyed the tumours long-term in more than 70% of cases.

He said he was taken aback at its effectiveness.

In preclinical trials we injected it into our models and within five minutes, you see a purpling of the area that looks like a bruise. About 24 hours later, the tumour area goes black, a couple of days later you see a scab, and at around the 1.5 week mark, the scab falls off, leaving clean skin with no tumour there. The speed certainly surprised me.

He believes the drug works by cutting off the blood supply to the tumour at a cellular level.

But, unfortunately, the drug does not look like becoming a wonder-treatment. It is unlikely to work if a cancer has metastasised or replace chemotherapy, says Boyle.

"Chemotherapy is still used because it is very effective for a lot of people. But EBC-46 could perhaps be used in people who, for some reason, chemotherapy doesn’t work [for], or for elderly patients whose body can’t sustain another round of chemotherapy treatment."

Ethical approval was recently granted for phase 1 human clinical trials for the drug.

  1. http://www.plosone.org/article/authors/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0108887
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