New Plant-Based Drug Shows Cancer Treatment Potential

A study conducted by UCLA found an effective treatment for head and neck cancers, for which 650,000 new cases are diagnosed every year worldwide. Cancer treatments in existence for advanced cancers such as radiation, chemotherapy and surgery are accompanied by adverse side effects. 

Therefore, the researchers have conducted a phase I clinical trial to find a solution to fight oral and oropharyngeal cancers with minimal invasion. Towards this purpose, the researchers developed a botanical drug from vegetable material belonging to the Curcuma longa plant of the ginger family, also known as turmeric.  

The drug called APG-157 is made up of several botanical compounds, but is predominantly comprised of the powerful curcumin compound found amply in turmeric. Curcumin is known for its active antioxidant and inflammation-fighting properties, helping the fight against several cancers. 

The drawback in taking curcumin orally in the conventional sense to treat oral and oropharyngeal cancers is that it is not easily absorbed by the bloodstream. However, APG-157 in the form of lozenges is absorbed into the mucosal tissues better since it slowly dissolves into the oral cavity. Curcumin is thus circulated better throughout the blood network and is directly absorbed by the tumor-infected tissues, combating them. 

What The Study Found

Researchers were careful in following the FDA’s Botanical Drug Guidance, which outlines requirements of botanical sources when being developed into prescription medication. Under these guidelines, only two botanical products made the cut in the past to be marketed as prescription drugs, namely sinecatechins ( Veregen) and crofelemer (Mytesi). 

For this double‐blind, randomized, placebo‐controlled study, 13 subjects without cancer and 12 patients with oral cancers were recruited to test the efficacy of APG‐157. While some subjects were given placebo medication, the others were given lozenges transorally just before the trial commenced and every one hour for the three hour duration of the study. On an hourly basis, two doses, either 100 mg or 200 mg, and 24 hours post the treatment was administered. 

The subjects were kept in the dark about which type of drug they were receiving. Blood and saliva samples to measure the absorption of the drug were collected every hour simultaneously. Blood and electrocardiogram tests did not reveal toxicity in both kinds of people who took the medication as well as the placebo group, irrespective of whether they were diagnosed with cancer or not.  

When the impact of APG-157 was tested, they found that inflammation had come down while activating the T-cells to fight the disease. When used with other immunotherapy drugs, it empowered the immune system to effectively weed out the head and neck cancers. APG-157 also inhibited the growth of Bacteroides species. 

“APG‐157 is absorbed well, reduces inflammation, and attracts T cells to the tumor, suggesting its potential use in combination with immunotherapy drugs,” the researchers stated in the paper recently published in the American Cancer Society Journals.

Plant Based Replacing animal-based proteins with protein-packed plants can help lower the risk of death. Photo courtesy of Pixabay, public domain