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Highly effective substance found against aggressive tumor cells
Hidden in the Congolese rainforest could be an effective cure for cancer. A German-Japanese research team discovered a natural agent in rainforest lianas that kills cancer cells. The researchers have succeeded in isolating this active ingredient in the laboratory in order to use it to manufacture a drug against certain types of tumor.
The team around the natural product chemist Professor Gerhard Bringmann from the Institute of Organic Chemistry at the University of Würzburg, together with the research group around Professor Suresh Awale from the Institute of Natural Medicine at the University of Toyama in Japan, discovered a new substance that fights cancer cells very effectively. The active ingredient interrupts the supply of aggressive tumor cells and virtually starves them out. The study results were recently published in the "Journal of Natural Products".
The secret from the jungle
The Republic of Congo, which is difficult to access, hides many a secret. Over half of the country is covered with dense tropical rainforest. In other areas there are extensive marsh areas. There is also a sparse infrastructure. Against this backdrop, it quickly becomes clear that not everything has been researched here. Some time ago, researchers in this area discovered a liana species called Ancistrocladus likoko, which contains exceptional alkaloid molecules. The research team has now succeeded in producing an anti-cancer agent from this natural product.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most dangerous types of cancer
Hardly any tumor disease is as deadly as pancreatic cancer (pancreatic cancer). Less than five percent of those affected survive the first five years after diagnosis. The cancer cells are extremely aggressive and multiply rapidly. The fast growth naturally also requires a lot of nutrients and oxygen. To ensure this supply, the cancer cells use a certain signal chain, which experts call “Akt / mTOR”.
Lianen active ingredient starves aggressive cancer cells
As the researchers found, the liana active ingredient from the Congolese rainforest ensures that the "Akt / mTOR" signal chain is interrupted. The result: the supply of cancer cells can no longer be guaranteed; they starve and die. The researchers from Würzburg and Japan have now for the first time succeeded in elucidating the exact structure and isolation of this active substance from the branches of the liana.
From liana to cancer drug
The team extracted the alkaloid compounds from ground branches of the liana and separated them using high performance liquid chromatography. The experts then analyzed the structure of the alkaloid in a 3D model. They named the isolated active ingredient Ancistrolikokin E3.
Ancistrolikokin E3 prevents metastasis
The new active ingredient Ancistrolikokin E3 showed extremely promising results against pancreatic cancer cells in the laboratory. According to the research team, the liana active ingredient not only causes cancer cells to starve, it also prevents the formation of metastases and thus the spread of cancer.
Breakthrough in cancer research
Scientists have been looking for active substances that interrupt the signaling pathways of cancer cells for some time. The study is the first to show that drugs based on the inhibition of the "Akt / mTOR" signal chain are a promising alternative for the development of new anti-cancer drugs. (vb)