The search for more effective cancer treatments may soon harness the healing power of the Autumn crocus.
Researchers are poised to start clinical trials with a new "smart bomb" treatment, derived from the flower, targeted specifically at tumours. The treatment, called colchicine, was able to slow the growth of and even completely "kill" a range of different cancers, in experiments with mice. The research was highlighted at the British Science Festival in Bradford.
The team behind it, from the Institute for Cancer Therapeutics (ICT) at the University of Bradford, has published the work in the journal Cancer Research.
The native British Autumn crocus, otherwise known as "meadow saffron" or "naked lady", is recorded in early herbal guides as a treatment for inflammation. This is because it contains the potent chemical colchicine, which is known to have medicinal properties, including anti-cancer effects.
But colchicine is toxic to other tissues in the body, as well as cancer, so until now its use has been limited.
The researchers at ICT have now altered the colchicine molecule so it is inactive in the body until it reaches the tumour. Once there, the chemical becomes active and breaks up the blood vessels supplying the tumour, effectively starving it.
Source - BBC