Thunder God Vine, Nano Technology and Eradicating Liver Cancer
Hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC, is a deadly form of liver cancer – and scientists are investigating a treatment for it that includes Thunder God Vine and nanotechnology. Its sounds like something straight out of Star Wars, but it’s much closer to use in our time than you may believe.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is a primary liver cancer that is responsible for the second most number of cancer related deaths across the world. It can start on its own, or as a by-product of liver damaging diseases, such as cirrhosis or diabetes. Things that put one at risk for HCC are:
- Hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Hepatocellular cancer can start several years after you have had either of these liver diseases. Both can be transmitted through blood, (i.e. sharing needles).
- Drinking alcohol heavily. Having more than two alcoholic drinks a day for several years increases one’s likelihood of contracting HCC. The more you drink, the higher your risk becomes.
- Obesity and diabetes can cause HCC. Both of these conditions raise your risk of liver cancer. Obesity can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to hepatocellular carcinoma. The higher risk from diabetes may be due to uncontrolled high insulin levels in people with diabetes or from liver damage caused by the disease.
- Cirrhosis – again, often times related to heavy drinking. This serious disease happens when the liver cells are damaged or killed, and then replaced with scar tissue. Cirrhosis is not only caused by heavy drinking, but Hep B & C can also contribute, as well as certain medications and too much iron in the body.
A specific mold can also cause HCC – Aflatoxin. This toxic substance, which is created by certain types of mold on peanuts, corn, and other nuts and grains, can cause hepatocellular carcinoma. The U.S. has safety measures that limit aflatoxin in the food supply, but that does not mean it is impossible to come in contact with.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is a very difficult disease to treat, and has a high mortality rate. Conventional chemotherapeutic drugs such as doxorubicin, epirubicin, cisplatin, 5-fluorouracil, etoposide or combinations thereof may not able to reach a sufficient concentration in the liver tumor cells at levels that are not harmful to the rest of the body (Institute for Basic Science). In other words, the medications cannot saturate the liver cells at a high enough concentration to be cause cell death (aptosis) without being toxic to the rest of the body at the same time.
Because of this, many patients are unable to undergo standard treatment options, so an alternative therapy in this situation is critical. The crux of the issue is, however, a treatment that is toxic enough to cause aptosis, without poisoning the rest of the body.
“Now a team of scientists, led by Prof. Taeghwan Hyeon at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS)/Seoul National University and Prof. Kam Man Hui at the National Cancer Center Singapore, has screened a library containing hundreds of natural products against a panel of HCC cells to search a better drug candidate. The screen uncovered a compound named triptolide, a traditional Chinese medicine isolated from the thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii (Latin) or lei gong teng (Chinese)) which was found to be far more potent than current therapies. Studies from other researchers corroborate our findings as triptolide has also found to be very effective against several other malignant cancers including; pancreatic, neuroblastoma and cholangiocarcinoma. However this excitement was tempered when the drug was administered to mice as the increased potency was coupled with increased toxicity as well.”
Mitigating the toxicity, however, was the next step for Professor Hyeon. To this end, he turned to nanoformulation to increase the specific delivery of the drug to only the cells being targeted.
The designed formulation was a pH-sensitive nanogel coated with the nucleotide precursor, folate. And – it worked in laboratory tests with field mice. The coated triptolide accumulated in the swollen tumor tissue, and the triptolide was taken into the cancer cells and destroyed them.
This breakthrough is leading scientists to be hopeful about the synthesis of Triptolide and thunder god vine into an effective cancer treatment. In the meantime, Triptolide will continue to be produced in a thunder god vine plant near you!
Institute for Basic Science. “Thunder god vine, with assists by nanotechnology, could shake up future cancer treatment.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140827091946.htm>