Often, the substances used by modern medicine in Chemotherapies for treatment of Cancer are natural products derived from natural substances. For instance, ˜taxanes which is used in treatment of breast and prostate cancers are made from Yew trees. Yew Tree is a popular periwinkle plant that grows on the ground of many front yards and is the source of Vinca alkaloids that are effective against malignant lymphomas. Similarly, the modern anti-cancer drugs ˜irinotecan and ˜topotecan are derived from a substance of the Chinese Happy Tree.
Doctors and scientists are on the look out for new compounds derived from plants used in treating traditional medicine. In his search for active ingredients, Prof. Dr. Thomas Efferth of DKFZ is concentrating on herbal remedies derived from traditional Chinese medicines. Together with his colleagues, he began a systematic compound search among 76 Chinese medicinal plants that were believed to be effective in fighting malignant tumors.
The plant constituents used for research include substances derived from Rangoon Creeper, an ornamental plant with red flowers, or from Red-Root Sage. Red-Root Sage contains three ingredients with powerful anti-tumor activity. These substances were found to hinder the growth of specific tumor cell line in the cell wall, which appears to be a contrast when compared to the whole range of regular anti-cancer drugs that are in-effective against this cell.
We hope to find many interesting working mechanisms among these chemically diverse natural substances. At present, we are assessing the effectiveness of the substances on 60 different cancer cell lines with the gene activity profiles of these cells. Hence we can determine the appropriate gene products that are cellular targets of our compounds, explained Efferth describing his next steps.