Scientists have revealed an amazing weapon in the fight against cancer. A drug made from crocuses wiped out tumors and cured the disease in one treatment.
It is thought to work against almost all types of cancer, including breast, bowel, lung and prostate – the four biggest killers. The cancer “smart bomb” also seems to be free of side-effects.
Tests on patients could start in months, and the drug could be available within just five years. The drug is based on colchicine, an extract of the autumn crocus known to have anti-cancer properties but thought too toxic for humans. To get around this, scientists attached a chemical “tail” to the colchicine that deactivates it until it reaches the cancer. Once there, the tail is cut off by an enzyme found in tumors, allowing the drug to break down blood vessels supplying the tumors with the oxygen and nourishment they need to grow.
In tests on mice with cancer, one dose wiped out all the tumors for good. The drug’s British inventor, Professor Laurence Patterson, of Bradford University, said, “Some of the mice all of their tumors regressed and didn’t come back. They were effectively cured. Not all of them, but some of the mice. And that was a single dose, which is quite unusual.”
Importantly, because the drug is only activated in tumors, it should be free of the side-effects that accompany many cancer medicines. In tests so far, it seems to be side-effect free.
It is hoped the first, small-scale, human trials will start next year, with 20 to 30 British patients in the advanced stages of cancer given infusions of the drug. Larger, more extensive tests will need to follow but, if it is proved to be safe and effective, it could be in widespread use within just five years.
Because the drug, which is known only as ICT2588, breaks down the blood vessels that tumors need to survive, it is thought it will work on all types of the disease, other than blood cancers. Targeting the tumors should also mean that the body doesn’t become resistant to it – a problem with many existing treatments, including the Herceptin breast cancer “wonder drug.”
Professor Patterson said, “The big problem, even with all our clever drugs, patients get another six months of life and the cancer comes back because the cancer has found a new pathway. That’s the big problem.”