Could crocuses beat cancer?
A flower-based drug that could wipe out four of the biggest cancer killers may be available within five years, scientists have claimed.
The drug is made from crocuses, a vibrant purple flower, and could work in the fight against almost all types of cancer, including breast, bowel, lung and prostate.
Scientists have nicknamed it a cancer 'smart bomb' which has wiped out tumours and cured the disease in one treatment when tested on mice during the research process. They hope it can be tested on humans in a matter of months and be made available for treatment within five years.
One hurdle the researchers have had to get over is that the drug is based on colchicine, an extract of the autumn crocus. Colchicine is known to have anti-cancer properties but is thought to be too toxic for humans, however the scientists were able to attach a chemical ‘tail’ to it that deactivates it until it reaches the cancer.
Once it connects, an enzyme in the cancer cuts off the tail, which allows the drug to break down blood vessels supplying the tumours with the oxygen and nourishment they need to grow.
The British Science Festival heard that a number of the mice taking part in the test were 'cured' after one round of the crocus treatment.
"Some of the mice, all of their tumours regressed and didn’t come back. They were effectively cured," Professor Laurence Patterson of Bradford University, who invented the drug, said. "Not all of them, but some of the mice. And that was a single dose, which is quite unusual."
Professor Patterson hopes the fact the drug is only activated when it reaches its target means that patients wouldn't be dogged by the many side effects that come with the current selection of cancer treatments.
He also believes that the body will not become resistant to the flower-based drug, which is a common problem with many existing treatments. This is because it works to break down the blood vessels that tumours need to survive, meaning it can work on all types of the disease, other than blood cancers.
"The big problem, even with all our clever drugs, patients get another six months of life and the cancer comes back because the cancer has found a new pathway, that’s the big problem," he added.