Batting Cancer out of the Park

Tacca chantrieri appears to be potent microtubule stabilizer

(RxWiki News) One of the most common and powerful chemotherapy agents - Taxol - is derived from the Yew family. Scientists have discovered another plant may be just as potent.

Medical researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio have zeroed in on the cancer-fighting potential found in the bat plant called Tacca chantrieri.

"New, powerful anticancer medication may come from the bat plant."

Susan Mooberry, Ph.D, leader of the Experimental Development Therapeutics Program at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center and a professor of pharmacology at the UT Health Science Center, has been working to pinpoint substances in the plant that has the potency that could match Taxol.

Taxol is a so-called microtubule stabilizer which has been a mainstay cancer drug for years. And while powerful, patients can become resistant to it over time. As a result of these problems, researchers have long been seeking alternatives.

The bat plant has the same potency as Taxol and also behaves as a microtubule stabilizer. Microtubules are involved in the production of new cells, including cancer cells. They help make sure that new cells get a full set of all genetic material. But when microtubules are stabilized, or held still, they can't do their job and the cells die.

Compounds in the bat plant stabilize microtubules in cancer cells but leave healthy cells alone. Dr. Mooberry, who led the study, says the plant compounds - taccalonolides - are selective and kill only the cancer cells.

This study published in the November, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Review Date: 
November 25, 2011