Mint in anti-cancer trials

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cancer

Researchers at the University of Salford, Manchester, have
discovered a type of mint leaf, long used in traditional Chinese
medicine, that appears to destroy cancer cells.

The team, led by Professor Alan McGown, has used an from an extract derived from a Chinese relative of common garden mint, scutellaria barbata​, to create a chemical that destroys the blood vessels that feed the tumour, causing the cells to die.

The chemical has so far only been tested in the laboratory, but experts hope to begin human trials as soon as funding can be secured.

Professor McGown said the findings were "very exciting"​ and could pave the way for better targeted cancer treatments.

"All cancers require a blood supply if they are to survive and grow,"​ McGown said. "If we can target and destroy these blood vessels then we will have a treatment that will be applicable to all forms of cancer in both children and adults."

Whereas traditional cancer treatments work by attempting to destroy the cancer cells, the mint attacks the tumour's blood vessels, starving it of oxygen and nutrients. This type of treatment would therefore reduce side effects.

"While most current chemotherapy target things that are present in tumours, many of these characteristics are also present in healthy cells, leading to side effects such as hair loss,"​ said researcher Dr Sylvie Ducki. "Here we have a drug that targets very specifically the blood vessels which feed the tumour."

"Scutellaria barbata has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat several illnesses including some cancers. So, this finding is very interesting and the active ingredients of the plant should definitely be investigated further,"​ said a spokesperson for Cancer Research UK.

Researchers hope to have completed live trials within 18 months and human trials within three years, if funding can be found.

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