Could Wormwood be the Cure for Cancer?

Could Wormwood be the Cure for Cancer?

Researchers at the University of Washington may have discovered
a nontoxic treatment to combat breast cancer and leukemia through
their investigation of the herb wormwood, reports the
Environmental News Network. Bioengineering research
professors Henry Lai and Narendra Singh were studying an ancient
Chinese remedy for malaria that used wormwood when Lai hypothesized
it might work with cancer as well.

That was seven years ago. Now, a study in the latest issue of
Life Sciences describes how a derivative within the plant —
called artemisinin — killed virtually all human breast cancer
cells exposed to it within 16 hours. The reason for its success
lies in cancer cells’ use of iron for reproduction. ‘Cancer cells
have much higher iron concentrations than normal cells,’ Lai said.
‘When we began to understand how artemisinin worked, I started
wondering if we could use that knowledge to target cancer
cells.’

After pumping the cancer cells with maximum amounts of iron, Lai
and Singh introduced artemisinin to selectively kill the cancer
cells. Since their study succeeded, the researchers’ next step will
be animal testing. While limited tests have been done in the area
(one study of a dog with crippling bone cancer made a complete
recovery in five days), more rigorous testing is needed.

Wormwood’s utility is nothing new, according to the
Environmental News Network, which reports that the bitter
herb has been used for centuries to rid the body of worms and also
as an ingredient in the alcoholic beverage absinthe. Ancient
Chinese treatments using wormwood were lost over time until the
1970s, when recipes were unearthed during an archeological dig.
‘The fascinating thing is that this was something the Chinese used
thousands of years ago,’ Lai said. ‘We simply found a different
application.’
–Kate Garsombke
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