The gods have spoken. Or at least the thunder god vine did when it wiped out pancreatic tumors in mice during a recent lab experiment. According to Radiosurgery NJ experts, a drug made from the ancient Chinese plant, also known as lei gong teng, may soon be tested in humans after successful clinical trials proved its potency against cancer.
Mice treated with the thunder god vine showed no signs of tumors after 40 days or after discontinuing the treatment, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center.
“This drug is just unbelievably potent in killing tumor cells,” said Ashok Saluja, vice chairman of research at the center and the study’s leader. “You could see that every day you looked at those mice, the tumor was decreasing and decreasing, and then just gone.”
Apparently, the thunder god vine contains triptolide, which is an active toxin that can cause cancer cells to die. In traditional Chinese medicine, the plant is used as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. While the researchers hope to start human trials within six months, Saluja said it’s still a long leap from mice to people.
If successful, the plant could save millions of lives. About 44,000 new cases of the disease are diagnosed each year in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and about 20 percent of patients survive a year after diagnosis. By extracting the potent chemicals of thunder god vine, researchers may theoretically be able to do away with expensive, highly technical cancer treatments like gamma knife NJ surgery and chemotherapy.
Thunder god vine grows natively in China, Japan and Korea, and has been a mainstay in traditional medicine for hundreds of years. The plant is a favourite for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Scientists have been aware of its benefits for some time – in 2007 it was found to prevent kidney cysts in mice – but the tests with the substance are thought to be something of a breakthrough. Even for patients diagnosed at the earliest stages of their cancer when the odds are better, only about 14 percent survive five years or longer, according to the American Cancer Society.
The new drug has been called Minnelide, a combination of Minnesota and triptolide. Researchers developed a water soluble version that could be injected into mice, and in the future administered to patients intravenously.
To speed up development and testing, Saluja and his team have formed a company, Minneamrita Therapeutics, which will attempt to take the drug into the first of three stages of human clinical trials that are generally required before U.S. regulatory approval.