A POISONOUS plant that has been used as a folk medicine and hallucinogen for centuries might provide new treatment for severe brain cancer
A molecule found in jimson weed has been found to â€˜almost completelyâ€™ halt growth of malignant glioma cells, scientists from Tokyo said.
But Sir Paul Nurse, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, warned: â€œThere is much work to be done on the journey from the laboratory bench to the patientâ€™s bedside.â€
Jimson weed is found in Asia and the Americas. It is highly toxic but its mind-altering properties made it popular with shamans.
Extracts have been used to treat asthma, intestinal cramps and diarrhoea.
Malignant glioma is hard to treat as it attacks connecting tissue, making it difficult to identify boundaries between tumours and healthy cells.
But researchers at Tokyoâ€™s Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, writing in the British Journal of Cancer, reported how a molecule from the weed, known as DSA, slowed the growth of malignant cells and changed some to resemble healthy cells.
John Double, head of the Cancer Research UK unit at Bradford University, England, said: â€œThis is exciting but caution is needed. Potential treatment, based on DSA, is still a long way off.â€
Guardian Newspapers Limited
Poisonous plant could treat cancer