A new study has show that a plant traditionally used for its anti-malarial properties holds promise as a treatment for ovarian cancer.
Cancer researchers at the University of Kentucky Markey have determined that the drug artesunate, synthesised from the plant Artemisia annua, kills ovarian cancer cells in multiple preclinical model systems. The team says this anti-cancer activity is possible at concentrations that are achievable in the clinic.
The study has been published in Diagnostics.
Improving treatment for ovarian cancer
Currently, the standard of care for advanced ovarian cancer has not changed since 2003. It uses two chemotherapy agents called carboplatin and paclitaxel.
The researchers wrote: “Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecologic malignancy despite current first-line treatment with a platinum and taxane doublet. Artesunate has broad antineoplastic properties but has not been investigated in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel for ovarian cancer treatment.”
In this study, the researchers determined that artesunate, has anticancer activity at concentrations both alone and in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel, a finding which supports the further clinical development of this strategy.
Jill Kolesar, PharmD, professor in the UK College of Pharmacy and administrative director of Markey’s Precision Medicine Clinic, said: “Artesunate is historically used as an anti-malarial but with emerging evidence, it demonstrates its anti-cancer activity. This supports bringing it into the clinic, and we hope to have positive outcomes for these patients, based on our preclinical data. Wen are growing Artemisia on Kentucky farms, studying it in our Kentucky lab, and now moving it into Kentucky clinics.”
Kentucky is the only state currently growing substantial quantities of Artemisia annua, and it is also grown at on a UK farm, where it is harvested primarily for research purposes.