Potential cancer drug under study

Oct. 15, 2004 at 4:55 PM
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SEATTLE, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Some promising cancer-fighting compounds derived from wormwood will be developed for possible human use, it was announced Friday.

The University of Washington said it has signed a licensing agreement with Chongqing Holley Holdings, a Chinese company, and Holley Pharmaceuticals, its U.S. subsidiary, for the project.

The compounds, developed through the research of UW scientists Henry Lai and Narendra Singh, make use of a substance known as artemisinin, found in the wormwood plant and used throughout Asia since ancient times to treat malaria.

Lai said he became interested in artemisinin about 10 years ago. The chemical helps control malaria and he said he began to wonder if the process might work with cancer, too.

"Cancer cells need a lot of iron to replicate DNA when they divide," Lai explained. "As a result, cancer cells have much higher iron concentrations than normal cells. When we began to understand how artemisinin worked, I started wondering if we could use that knowledge to target cancer cells."

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