Researchers have found that a component of a plant used in ancient Chinese medicine can stop the progress of melanoma and other types of cancers.

Researchers from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey found that the protein from the seeds of Maackia amurensis, MASL, interacts with a receptor present in many types of cancer cells. The receptor called podoplanin (PDPN) allows cancer cells spread to other organs.

“Cells, even when they are cancerous, tend to stay put. PDPN allows tumor cells to break out of their microenvironment, invade new areas and metastasize. Our laboratory research shows that MASL not only significantly reduces cell migration, it also inhibits cancer cell growth," said Gary Goldberg, PhD, of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine, and lead author of the study, in a statement.

MASL can fight breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers that are resistant to currently available treatments, according to a press release.

Also, researchers say that the MASL protein doesn't cause any side effects.

"The absence of any noticeable side effects isn’t surprising. For centuries, MASL has been taken as a component in medicinal plant extracts used to treat a variety of ailments including cancer. According to standard traditional protocols, these preparations contain very high doses of MASL, yet we cannot find any reports of toxicity from its use," said Dr. Goldberg.

"Taken together, results from this study suggest that lectins exemplified by MASL could significantly expand our limited arsenal of targeted cancer treatments, particularly anticancer agents that can be administered orally," the authors wrote in the journal.

The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE.