A new drug derived from autumn crocus extracts could wipe out tumors in a single treatment with minimal side effects, according to University of Bradford researchers in UK.
The British researchers from University of Bradford have turned a chemical found in crocuses into a “smart bomb” that targets cancerous tumors.
The most important fact is that healthy tissue is unharmed, reducing the odds of debilitating side effects.
Unlike other side effect-free products, the new drug is able to kill off more than one type of the disease, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung and bowel cancer.
Potentially, all solid tumors could be vulnerable to drugs developed this way, meaning it could be used against all but blood cancers.
In some tests of the drug, half of tumors vanished completely after a single injection and the results will be presented at the British Science Festival this week.
The miraculous drug is based on colchicine, an extract from the autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale), known also as meadow saffran, and is at an early stage of development, being so far tested only on mice.
But the University of Bradford researchers are optimistic about drug’s potential in humans.
Professor Laurence Patterson said:
“What we have designed is effectively a <<smart bomb>> that can be triggered directly at any solid tumour without appearing to harm healthy tissue.
“If all goes well, we would hope to see these drugs used as part of a combination of therapies to treat and manage cancer.”
Colchicine has long been known to have anti-cancer properties but has been considered too toxic for use in the human body.
To solve this issue, the specialists attached a chemical “tail” to the substance, deactivating it until it reaches the cancer.
Once colchicine reaches the target, the tail is cut off by an enzyme called MMP (Matrix metalloproteinase involved in cell proliferation), which is found in tumors.
Once the tail is removed, the drug is activated, which then attacks and breaks down the blood vessels supplying the tumors with oxygen and nutrients.
Cancerous tumors use the blood supply to spread around the body and it is hoped that the treatment, called ICT2588, will also combat this.
The first tests on humans could start in as little as 18 months.
If the treatment will be successful, the drug could be on the market in 6 to 7 years.