Cancer Drug Derived From Rainforest Plant In Development

Australian firm QBiotics Ltd said Monday that it has developed a potential cancer drug from a rainforest plant that has successfully helped fight off inoperable tumors in pets.

The firm said its EBC-46 drug is derived from seeds of a tropical rainforest shrub and is ready to be tested on humans after treating solid tumors in over 100 dogs, cats and horses.

“We’ve treated over 150 animals … with a variety of tumors and we’re prepared to move into human studies,” chief executive Victoria Gordon told AFP.

Gordon said the results indicate the drug could work to counter a range of malignant growths, like skin cancers, head and neck cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

She said the drug works like a detonator inside tumors, prompting inactive beneficial white cells to begin to fight and destroy the cancer.

The company spent the last six years developing the drug since the previously unknown molecule in the native Australian blushwood plant was discovered.  The firm hopes to raise enough funds to begin human trials in 2011.

Gordon said the compound proves the value of retaining Australia’s tropical rainforests.

“The world’s rainforests are an amazing biological resource which we need to conserve and cherish,” she said in a statement.

“Not only may they hold the secret to many new drugs, they are the home of more than half of all other species with which we share the planet.”

The Cancer Council Australia cautioned the development, saying the firm has yet to publish its research.

“We have yet to see the results of this research published in a scientific journal, where they would be subject to independent scientific scrutiny, which is useful in determining the rigor of the research,” chief executive Ian Olver said in a statement.

“While it is encouraging to see success in animals, this has not been a good predictor of success in humans,” Professor Olver said. “So, it is far too early to be able to class this as a breakthrough.”

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