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Using Chinese Mint to make Anti-Cancer drugs



Herb crushed
Chinese shop exts
CU herbs
ExtsUniversity of Salford
Extraction in lab

Guide Commentary:
Scutellaria barbata, a Chinese herb related to common garden mint, has been used as an anti–toxin in Traditional Chinese Medicine since the days of the Yellow Emperor 2000 years ago.  It’s part of a vast resource of natural remedies that are increasingly attracting western interest, helping the Chinese pharmaceutical industry to grow by 20% in each of the last three years.  But researchers at the University of Salford’s Kidscan’s Laboratories are ahead of the crowd.  For twelve years they have been extracting and researching the active ingredients of this herb in the laboratory, because one of its uses in Chinese medicine is in the treatment of Cancer.  They have discovered strong scientific reasons for this by studying the action of this extract on cancerous tumours, research that has proved so promising, they have just received funding to take it through to clinical trials.

00:50 Dr Sylvie Ducki, Lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry, University of Salford
"we were interested in understanding how this active ingredient was working and what we found out was that it was targeting the blood vessels around the tumour rather than the tumour itself which is what conventional chemotherapy is doing, it’s trying to stop the division of cells in the cancer, unfortunately this also has side effects because it’s also effecting normal cells. So far our studies have shown no side effects and we figured that the treatment would be effective against about 90% of cancers."

01:30 Images:
Magnified cells
Cu computer screen
Drug in action
Cells changing

Guide Commentary
What they have developed are drugs that work in a new way, they change the structure of the blood vessels that surround tumours, cutting off the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the tumour, literally starving it to death.  Filmed through a microscope, the action of the active ingredients on

The cells surrounding the tumours, is both rapid and dramatic, the pockmarks appearing on the left, are the cells changing shape as the drug hits them.

01:54 Professor Alan McGown, Chair of Drug Design and Director of Kidscan, University of Salford
Tumour blood vessels are leaky and disorganised, a cancer needs a blood supply to grow so it sends out all these messages to actually try and make its own blood supply form from existing blood supply that the body has. When that happens in a cancer the blood vessels are growing so quickly that they’re weak and they’re disorganised which means that those blood vessels in the cancer because of this weakness are actually much more susceptible to the effects of the drug and makes the cells round up and block them.

02:26 Images:
Computer images of proteins
Drug in between proteins

Guide Commentary:
In this illustration the proteins which assemble into polymers create the shape of the cell, but the drug, the white area in the middle, inserts itself like a doorstop between them disturbing the structure, and breaking up the cell.  
While cancers can develop resistance to existing drugs, requiring higher doses and becoming less effective over time, it is thought that this new range, because it only impacts on weaker cells surrounding the tumour, will not encounter resistance in the same way.  
And these drugs have other applications too, particularly in the treatment of disease where the blood vessels grow rapidly like Endometriosis, a condition which effects thousands of women in the UK and in conditions caused by Diabetes.

03:06 Dr Sylvie Ducki
The drug targets micro vascular and these conditions like the macro-degeneration is the result of blood vessels growing in the eye of diabetic patients, eventually they become blind from this condition so because of the drugs effects on micro-vasculature or small blood vessels we think it would be an effective treatment against this condition as well.

03:34 Images:
Kidscan posters and images
Lab work
Cu herb samples
Lab work

Guide Commentary:
With additional funding by the “Kidscan” charity Dr Sylvie Ducki and her research team should be able to develop these drugs for clinical trials in about a year’s time, ensuring they have no toxic side effects, of which there is so far no sign.  This Chinese relative of mint offers the potential for a range of gentler, more “natural” drugs, and the prospect of less toxic cancer treatments, particularly suitable for the treatment of young children.

04:01 Alan McGown:
 Nature’s had 4 million years to evolve the most exquisite molecules, no chemist would either think of making them or could probably even make some of the more complicated ones but nature’s actually given us the tools, tools that can have the most exquisite biological effect, many of which can be turned into drugs. Nature’s got a lot to teach us.

04:21 Ends

Additional Material:
Dr Sylvie Ducki Soundbite in French

Page contact: Kelly Newton Last revised: Tue 28 Nov 2006
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