A chemical isolated from a weed that grows in mountain meadows in the western United States kills the cells of an aggressive brain cancer that affects some children. The compound, cyclopamine, blocks a signaling pathway that appears to be important for the survival of medulloblastoma, a form of cancer for which there is no effective treatment.
In an article published in the August 30, 2002, issue of the journal Science, a research team led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Philip A. Beachy reported that cyclopamine effectively killed cultured mouse medulloblastoma cells and tumors implanted in animals, as well as medulloblastoma cells extracted from human tumors.
“It will be difficult to obtain sufficient quantities of cyclopamine, since it must be extracted and purified from the plant source, Veratrum californicum, the corn lily,” said Beachy, who is at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “However, we believe that with this study, the evidence is in place to justify an effort to develop a supply so that it can be tested in humans.” Beachy and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins collaborated with researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington/Children’s Hospital in Seattle.
Jim Keeley | EurekAlert!
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