Chinese herb used in cancer drug

Oct. 14, 2008 at 11:59 PM
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SEATTLE, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say a compound derived from the sweet wormwood plan could lead to a more effective chemotherapy drug.

University of Washington scientists attached a chemical homing device to the anti-malarial drug artemisinin that targets cancer cells with minimal side effects. Artemisinin comes from the sweet wormwood plant, which has been used in herbal Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

"The compound is like a special agent planting a bomb inside the cell," senior author Tomikazu Sasaki said in a news release.

Sasaki said the artemisinin-based compound was highly effective at targeting human leukemia cells while sparing healthy cells. The university report said preliminary results show the compound also worked well on human breast and prostate cancer cells.

The findings are published in the journal Cancer Letters.

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