Scientists have discovered how a promising cancer drug, first discovered in a wild mushroom, works.
The University of Nottingham team believe their work could help make the drug more effective, and useful for treating a wider range of cancers.
Cordycepin, commonly used in Chinese medicine, was originally extracted from a rare kind of parasitic mushroom that grows on caterpillars. The study will appear in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
The cordyceps mushroom has been studied by medical researchers for some time - the first scientific publication on cordycepin was in 1950. However, although the drug showed great promise, it was quickly degraded in the body. It can be given with another drug to combat this - but the second drug can produce side effects that limit its potential use.
As a result, researchers turned their interest to other potential candidate drugs, and exactly how cordycepin worked on the body's cells remained unclear.
Researcher Dr Cornelia de Moor said: "Our discovery will open up the possibility of investigating the range of different cancers that could be treated with cordycepin. It will be possible to predict what types of cancers might be sensitive and what other cancer drugs it may effectively combine with. It could also lay the groundwork for the design of new cancer drugs that work on the same principle."