Is the humble crocus a cancer cure

Research into cancer treatments is a continual and ongoing process and the hope of an effective cure is the wish of every cancer research technologist. Recent research has highlighted the healing possibilities of an autumn flower, the crocus and researchers will start clinical trials with a new treatment derived from this flower. Cancerous tumours will be targeted specifically in the trials.

This new chemical treatment, known as colchicine, was used in the successful treatment of mice suffering from a number of different types of cancer. In most cases the cancer was completely eliminated.

The research has been carried out by a team from The Institute for Cancer Therapeutics, ICT, from Bradford University and the results published in the Cancer Research journal. The results have also been presented at the British Science Festival, held in Bradford.

The Autumn crocus, also known as naked lady and meadow saffron, had been used in early times for the treatment of inflammation. It contains a powerful chemical, colchicine, which has strong medicinal properties as well as cancer fighting agents. Colchicine is toxic to cancer but it is also harmful to other body tissue so its use has been limited until now.

The colchicine molecule has now been altered by the ICT researchers and it now remains inactive in the body until it reaches the tumour. Once it makes contact with the tumour, the chemical reactivates and causes the blood vessels feeding the tumor to break up, thereby starving the tumour.

Tumours produce enzymes which break down healthy cells around it. In this way the tumour spreads. The adapted colchicine molecule contains a protein that renders it harmless. The tumour enzyme attacks this protein and eradicates it thereby activating the colchicine and the starvation process of the cancer cells begins.

The drug will only be active in the tumour and will not damage any normal tissue. It may be possible to treat cancers with hardly any side effects to the body as the enzyme needed to activate the poisonous colchicines is only produced in solid tumours. Whenever the enzyme is produced the drug is activated.

The results of this research are most encouraging and only one dose of colchicine produced a very positive response. All the mice responded to the treatment and the majority of them were cured of cancer. Researchers hope the clinical testing at St. James Hospital  will commence within the next 12 to 18 months.

In an interview, Bradford University Spokesman, Professor Patterson, stated that caution should be exercised as everything done to date has been carried out in the laboratory but he is nonetheless optimistic about the treatment opportunities. The project is at an early stage but the results look promising.