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Garden Cancer Drug

December 8, 2005

A powerful potential leukemia treatment may be growing in your own backyard.


A garden-variety cancer drug. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A decorative garden plant may soon be fighting a deadly cancer. It’s a relative of mint called Coleus forskohlii. Molecular biologist Danilo Perotti, and his colleagues at the Ohio State University Medical Center have been testing a chemical from the plant called forskolin.

DANILO PEROTTI (Ohio State University Medical Center):
And this is an extract – we use a pure extract from the roots of the plant…

In lab and animal studies, they found that forskolin can shut off an enzyme that causes a kind of leukemia called CML. The result was an up to 90 percent reduction in cancer growth. What’s more, forskolin appears to be effective against drug-resistant forms of the disease, and an end stage of the disease that current drugs can’t treat. But Dr. Perotti cautions that more work is needed before they can start human trials. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.