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Scientists are trying to understand how cancerous cells resist to natural plant extract medicine

Posted May 27, 2018

There is this aggressive type of cancer found in the blood, called t-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. A lot of children are suffering from it and it is deadly, but current therapies have increased the survival rates to above 85% in developed countries. However, the problem is that some patients don‘t respond to traditional and even new treatments, but why?

Understanding how cancerous cells become resistant to treatment could improve traditional chemotherapy as well. Image credit: Bill Branson via Wikimedia

Current treatments are largely effective, but sometimes they just cause terrible side effects. Scientists have created a more natural therapy based on a natural plant extract called Parthenolide, which has minimal effects on normal blood healthy blood cells. However, in some cases cancer cells remain resistant to Parthenolide as well. Now scientists from the University of Bristol decided to look at the mechanisms for this resistance in order to increase the effectiveness of the Parthenolide. This research showed that it is the bone marrow cells can protect cancer cells from the Parthenolide.

To be more precise, there are normal support cells derived from the bone marrow that release of antioxidants, which somehow manage to protect cancerous cells from the effects of the Parthenolide. Scientists confirmed that blocking the release of antioxidants reduced the number of leukaemia cell resistant to the Parthenolide. And so it is clear that this study could lead to new more effective Parthenolide therapies. This is great news because the Parthenolide is a promising natural treatment which doesn’t have that many adverse side effects. Currently it is not as effective as more aggressive options because of the resistance to treatment that some leukaemia cells develop. If this can be fixed, scientists could move on with the development of the Parthenolide.

Scientists say that this research could lead to better understanding about how cancer cells interact with normal healthy cells to survive. Not only this can increase the efficiency of the Parthenolide therapy, but can also improve other chemotherapies. Dr Allison Blair, lead author of the study, said: “By understanding the different ways cancer cells interact with normal healthy cells to survive this will help us to devise strategies to enhance new and in use therapies, for the benefit of children suffering from this terrible disease”.

Scientists are turning to nature more and more. Plant-derived treatments still have to undergo all the trial procedures and so they get rid of the stereotypical image of non-effective old-fashioned medicine. Hopefully, the Parthenolide can be improved and reach more patients of this horrible disease.


Source: University of Bristol

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