Celastrol & Triptolide from Tripterygium Wilfordii Powerful Anti-Cancer Treatments?
A model of impactful Chinese medicine, the Chinese Thunder God Vine is a plant that has been used for centuries successfully to fight inflammatory disease. Hosting more than 100 beneficial compounds, the peeled root extract of the thunder-god vine is what is used to treat diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, lupus, and now, cancer.
Many of the active compounds in the root have medicinal properties. However, two of the compounds, Celastrol (a Quinone triterpene) and Triptolide (a diterpenoid epoxide) have scientists very intrigued, surfacing as possible treatments for all the things that the Chinese physicians have been using them for in the last 400 years or so. Of course, in the US, “medicine” isn’t “medicine” until the FDA says so, which is still a ways off.
The research and scientific community, however, are slowly catching up to the Chinese healers of old. Studies are now being conducted and beginning to prove that the Tripterygium Wilfordii root extract has promising therapeutic potentials “in a number of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, and phase 2b clinical trials have been conducted to test the efficacy of TwHf extracts in rheumatoid arthritis [2,3], Crohn’s disease  and kidney transplantation . Adverse effects such as diarrhea, headache, nausea and infertility are also recorded, and numerous attempts have been made to improve its efficacy and safety ” .
First, we will discuss Triptolide.
Triptolide, according to Dr. Liu, has a “broad spectrum” ability to impede reproduction and ignite biochemical events that lead to cell death in a range of cancer cells in lab tests. In addition, it has been shown to avert tumor growth and metastasizing of cancer tumors. It seems to be able to interfere with signals that cells send which are critical for cancer cell survival. In a lab test with mice growing pancreatic cancer, Triptolide was able to actually eradicate cancer in less than 40 days [6.] Dr. Liu writes that Triptolide has also shown to be effective in instances of cholangiocarcinoma (hamster model), human melanoma, breast cancer, gastric carcinoma, pancreatic cancer and neuroblastoma (nude mice) .
Celastrol acts much like Triptolide, but appears to be effective against killers such as Leukemia, pancreatic cancer, gliomas, prostate and breast cancer, according to Dr. Liu. Celastrol, slightly differing from Triptolide, appears to disrupt the development of new blood vessels in tumors, thus inhibiting growth, and may actually be an effective enhancing agent to modern treatments such as Temozolomides for brain cancer, microtubule-targeting anti-cancer drugs and others.
Dr. Liu also mentions that thunder god vine root extract may also be effective against Leukemia. Some laboratory studies have shown that various diterpenes found in the root extract have exhibited strong “inhibitory activity” against both leukemia and lung cancers.
More study is of course needed before these treatments can be made available mainstream, but the results of the various studies thus far look promising in the fight against the ravages of certain forms of cancer.
- Liu Z, Ma L, Zhou G-B. The Main Anticancer Bullets of the Chinese Medicinal Herb, Thunder God Vine. Molecules. 2011; 16(6):5283-5297 http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/16/6/5283
- Goldbach-Mansky, R.; Wilson, M.; Fleischmann, R.; Olsen, N.; Silverfield, J.; Kempf, P.; Kivitz, A.; Sherrer, Y.; Pucino, F.; Csako, G.; et al. Comparison of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F Versus Sulfasalazine in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis A Randomized Trial. Ann. Intern. Med. 2009, 151, 229-251.
- Tao, X.L.; Lipsky, P.E. The Chinese anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive herbal remedy Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F. Rheum. Dis. Clin. N. Amer. 2000, 26, 29-50.
- Ren, J.; Tao, Q.S.; Wang, X.B.; Wang, Z.M.; Li, J.S. Efficacy of T2 in active Crohn’s disease: A prospective study report. Dig. Dis. Sci. 2007, 52, 1790-1797.
- Ji, S.M.; Wang, Q.W.; Chen, J.S.; Sha, G.Z.; Liu, Z.H.; Li, L.S. Clinical trial of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F. in human kidney transplantation in China. Transplant. Proc. 2006, 38, 1274-1279.
- Antonoff, Mara B. et al. “Triptolide therapy for neuroblastoma decreases cell viability in vitro and inhibits tumor growth in vivo” Surgery , Volume 146 , Issue 2 , 282 – 290. Retrieved from <http://www.surgjournal.com/article/S0039-6060(09)00313-4/fulltext>