University of Windsor lab uses compound inspired by spider lily to kill cancer cells

Thursday, February 23, 2017

CBC News

Compound can distinguish between cancerous and healthy cells

A University of Windsor lab has successfully used a compound inspired by a flower to target and kill cancer.

A team led by chemistry professor Siyaram Pandey has discovered a lab-synthesized drug compound based on extract from the common spider lily plant to kill 20 varieties of cancer cells.

"This drug is very selective and targets the mitochondria of various cancer cells to induce apoptosis, which means the cancer cells commit suicide and the normal cells continue to thrive," explained Pandey. "We are talking about a drug that could be 10 times more effective that the very toxic chemotherapy drug Taxol."

Originally, it took one kilogram of spider lily buds to make one milligram of the compound, but by teaming up with other Ontario universities a non-toxic, synthetic compound called pancratistatin was created.

Seven compound variations were produced and patented in cooperation with researchers from McMaster and Brock universities. The team tested the variations on animals with tumours as well as 20 varieties of cancer cells including breast, cancer, prostate, melanoma and bone.

The compound is so effective because it targets the mitochondria of cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone, according to Pandey.

"This is the first time we got a compound which can distinguish between cancer and normal cells," he added.

Before the treatment becomes available to the public a drug company would have to put the compound through clinical trials.