African medicinal plants contain chemicals that may be able to stop the spread of cancer cells. This is the conclusion of researchers following laboratory experiments conducted at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). The plant materials will now undergo further analysis in order to evaluate their therapeutic potential. "The active substances present in African medicinal plants may be capable of killing off tumor cells that are resistant to more than one drug. They thus represent an excellent starting point for the development of new therapeutic treatments for cancers that do not respond to conventional chemotherapy regimens," explained Professor Thomas Efferth of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biochemistry Therapeutic Life Sciences at Mainz University. For the past four years, Efferth and biochemist Dr. Victor Keute of the University of Dschang in Cameroon have been studying the active substances in African plants such as the giant globe thistle, wild pepper, speargrass, and Ethiopian pepper.
Multi-drug resistance is one of the most feared problems in cancer therapy because in such cases most of the standard chemical cancer drugs used in therapy fail and the patient's chance of survival is thus dramatically reduced. The problem cannot usually be resolved by simply increasing the dosage as this also results in the exacerbation of undesirable side effects. "We are now looking for substances that can both break down tumor resistance and not produce side effects," continued Efferth, who also works with medicinal plants used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Many plants contain toxic substances that they use to protect themselves against predators and microbial diseases. Over the course of millions of years during which life has evolved on earth plants have managed to appropriate certain molecules to help them to offset their main disadvantage in the face of their enemies, i.e., their immobility and lack of an immune system. The
|Contact: Dr. Thomas Efferth|
Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz