Crocus offers scientists hope in the battle against cancer

 

A substance found in a native British flower has been turned into a powerful "smart bomb" drug that can work against a range of cancers.

The drug, based on colchicine found in the autumn crocus, cuts off the blood supply to solid tumours, curbing their growth and stopping cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body.

Tests on laboratory mice have shown that the drug is highly effective at attacking tumours from a range of human diseases such as sarcomas and cancers of the breast, colon, lung and prostate. The drug is also designed to target solid tumours directly, leaving healthy tissue unaffected, according to Professor Laurance Patterson, director of Bradford University's Institute for Cancer Therapeutics.

"What we've designed is, effectively, a 'smart bomb' that can be targeted directly at any solid tumour to kill it without appearing to harm healthy tissue," Professor Patterson said.

"What is also new about our approach is that we are effectively targeting the blood supply of the tumour," he said. "If you can starve the tumour of that blood supply, then you can shut off its ability to grow and, indeed, you also shut off its ability to move around the body."

The drug is well known as having anti-cancer properties, but is normally toxic to healthy cells and so has had limited potential in medicine.

The trick used by the Bradford scientists is to attach colchicine to another molecule that renders the drug inactive until it comes into contact with a one of a class of enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which are used uniquely by tumours to burrow into the body's healthy tissue, said Kevin Adams of the Bradford institute.

"The drug is inactive until triggered by the activity of an enzyme that is always found in the tumour environment but not elsewhere. Triggering releases a potent, anti-cancer agent which destroys the tumour's blood vessels, effectively starving the tumours to death, a process known as haemorrhagic necrosis," Dr Adams said. Tests on specially bred mice that have human cancerous tumours have shown that the drug and its delivery system can have a "cure rate" of greater than 70 per cent after a single dose, he said. Four different cancers have been treated and the animals suffered no adverse effects.

The next stage is a phase 1 clinical trial to test its initial safety, which is hoped to be conducted within 18 months at St James's University Hospital in Leeds.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there