In modern society, the chances are that you, or someone you know, will have had cancer. In Canada alone, over 1,000,000 people were suffering from cancer in 2009, an overwhelming statistic in comparison to other diseases. The odds show that, in their lifetime, 2 of 5 Canadians will develop cancer. Of those, 25% will die. In the USA, the odds rise higher, seeing 50% of all men developing the disease.
As years pass, these rates continue to grow. The reason, although yet not fully understood, is primarily thought to be poor diet and pollution. Research has begun, however, into a Chinese herb barely touched upon in science up until recent years. When used in clinical trials it’s wielded incredible results, killing 12,000 cancer cells to every body cell, making it of obvious superiority to chemotherapy.
Used as an alternative method of treatment for cancer when chemotherapy has proved ineffective, Chinese scientist Henry Lai has synthesized the herb’s compounds to attack cancer. Relying upon a cancer cell’s hunger for iron, he and his team have reset the scales, turning cancer cells into the target.
“By itself, artemisinin is about 100 times more selective in killing cancer cells as opposed to normal cells. artemisinin is 34,000 times more potent in killing the cancer cells as opposed to their normal cousins. So the tagging process appears to have greatly increased the potency of artemisinin’s cancer-killing properties.” – Henry Lai
Although it’s licensed to a human pharmaceutical company, artemisinin has yet to be used as a means of treating cancer within humans. Its results, however, are expected to be highly promising.
“We call it a Trojan horse because the cancer cell recognizes transferrin as a natural, harmless protein. So the cell picks up the compound without knowing that a bomb (artemisinin) is hidden inside.” – Henry Lai
With a long history of use in China, the wormwood extract was lost over time, only to be rediscovered with the unveiling of an ancient Chinese manuscript.
“The compound is currently being licensed by the University of Washington to Artemisinin Biomedical Inc., a company that Lai, Sasaki and Narendra Singh, UW associate professor of bioengineering, founded in Newcastle, Washington for development and commercialization. Human trials are at least several years away. Artemisinin is readily available, Sasaki said, and he hopes their compound can eventually be cheaply manufactured to help cancer patients in developing countries.” (0)
The abstracts of the study read:
“Artemisinin reacts with iron to form free radicals that kill cells. Since cancer cells uptake relatively larger amounts of iron than normal cells, they are more susceptible to the toxic effect of artemisinin. In previous research, we have shown that artemisinin is more drawn to cancer cells than to normal cells. In the present research, we covalently attached artemisinin to the iron-carying plasma glycoprotein transferrin.Transferrin is transported into the cells via receptor-mediated endocytosis and cancer cells express significantly more transferrin receptors on their cell surface and endocytose more transferrin than normal cells. Thus, we hypothesize that by tagging artemisinin to transferrin, both iron and artemisinin would be transported into cancer cells in one package. Once inside a cell, iron is released and can readily react with artemisinin close by tagged to the transferrin. This would enhance the toxicity and selectivity of artemisinin towards cancer cells. We found that holotransferrin-tagged artemisinin, when compared with artemisinin, was very potent and selective in killing cancer cells. Thus, this ‘tagged-compound’ could potentially be developed into an effective chemotherapeutic agent for cancer treatment.” (1)
Another abstract reads:
“Our results demonstrate that the artemisinin disruption of E2F1 transcription factor expression mediates the cell cycle arrest of human breast cancer cells and represents a critical transcriptional pathway by which artemisinin controls human reproductive cancer cell growth.” (2)
Currently under evaluation for approval by the FDA, artemisinin is expected to be deemed safe and recommended as a medicine for cancer treatment. For a disease as intelligent as cancer, it’s time for a medicine to be developed that matches.