Often the latest medical breakthroughs are based on ancient knowledge applied in more focused and refined ways. Such is the case of a new cancer fighter derived from a deadly Mediterranean weed that ancient Greek physicians once studied and experimented with as part of their medical research.
Many of the peoples of the ancient world gave the plant, Thapsia Gargancia, a wide berth. Thapsia (also called the Drias plant and False Fennel), was allegedly discovered near the Greek city of Thapsos on the island of Sicily during either the Minoan or Myacean period.
In reality, the plant can be found throughout Greece and other parts of the Mediterranean.
Containing a very well-known toxin, Aban caravans carefully avoided Thapsia as camels munching on its carrot-like roots fell into seizures and died.
The Romans sometimes used the plant for a variety of medicinal purposes including mild solutions as an accelerant to heal bruises, and later to treat chronic lung ailments.
The resins from the root bark are escpecially toxic and Herbs — Treat and Taste writes that "Scientists have managed to extract phenylpropanoids from the fruit which were 'found to be potent cytotoxins' according to a study in Phytochemistry Vol.67 (4) pp 2651-56 by Huizhen Liu et al.
'…cancer itself is activating its own demise,' Dr. Isaacs [Image: GenSpera]
"This research led to other studies and the thapsigargins found in the resin of this plant have been developed as an anti-cancer treatment."
Working with a derivative of the weed's resins, scientists at John Hopkins University and in Denmark have managed to construct a "smart" cancer-killing "molecular grenade" that remains harmless in the body until it meets a cancer cell. The drug then exposes the malignant cell to the poison while healthy cells are unaffected.
Dr. John Isaacs [Image: John Hopkins]
The biomedical company GenSpera describes the entire process in their recent press release. The actual scientific study appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine. More about the research is available at the biomedical company's website.
Deadly cancer cells are hit with 'molecular grenades'
Dr. John Isaacs of Johns Hopkins and lead author of the incredible study explained in the press release: "The exciting thing is that the cancer itself is activating its own demise."
"In laboratory studies, researchers said they found that a three-day course of G202 reduced the size of human prostate tumors grown in mice by an average of 50 percent within 30 days. In a direct comparison, G202 outperformed the chemotherapy drug docetaxel, reducing seven of nine human prostate tumors in mice by more than 50 percent in 21 days. Docetaxel reduced one of eight human prostate tumors in mice by more than 50 percent in the same time period," observes Scientific Blogging.
Clump of cancer cells forming the node of a tumor
Writing about the important advance, BusinessInsider notes that G202 is "also highly effective against animal models of human breast, kidney and bladder cancers."
Once again, modern medicine lays the pathway toward the future while learning from the ancient Masters of the past.