Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., annually killing more than 47,000 Americans.
In a recent study at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, researchers found a compound derived from the thunder god vine that is able to kill cancer cells and may improve outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer.
Thunder god vine is an herb used in China to treat joint pain, swelling, and fever.
The medicinal plant’s key ingredient, triptolide, is the basis of a water-soluble prodrug called Minnelide.
The researchers found that this ingredient attack pancreatic cancer cells and layer surrounding the tumor that shields it from the body’s immune system.
The study is published in Oncogenesis. One author is Dr. Haiyong Han.
In the study, the team found the compound could disrupt strings of DNA (called super-enhancers) that maintain the genetic stability of pancreatic cancer cells and the cancer-associated-fibroblasts that help make up the stroma surrounding cancer.
Cancer cells rely on super-enhancers for their growth and survival.
By disrupting these super-enhancers, the plant’s ingredient triptolide not only attacks the cancer cells but also the stroma, which helps accelerate cancer cell death.
The findings may develop treatment strategies that not only target the tumor cells but can also modulate the stromal cells.
Traditional Chinese medicine has used the plant for more than 2,000 years as a treatment for everything from fever to inflammation and autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The chemical compound triptolide is among the more than 100 bioactive ingredients derived from the thunder god vine.
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