A little known Chinese compound is making headlines. Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center, have demonstrated that the thunder plant compound literally kills cancer. The chinese plant known as the “thunder god vine”, or “lei gong teng” is an integral part of Chinese medicine and has been used to treat diverse medical conditions.
The research published in the Journal of Science Translational Medicine in a paper termed “Pancreas Cancer meets the Thunder God”, stunned the scientists who have been working on the anti-cancer properties of the compound. The new drug, called minnelide, is a modified form of the diterpenoid compound triptolide, isolated from the medicinal vine Tripterygium wilfordii. Prior studies have found triptolide to be a potent cancer fighting agent with activity against a range of tumor types.
A highly water-soluble analog of triptolide has been synthesized by the researchers at the University of Minnesota, which is effectively converted back to the parent drug when exposed to phosphatases. Phosphatases are found in all body tissues, including blood.
The senior researcher and vice chairman of research at the Cancer Center explained to the Bloomberg news site how he was amazed by the effects of the simple plant:
“This drug is just unbelievably potent in killing tumor cells,” he said.
Sunil R. Hingorani1 and John D. Potter. Pancreas Cancer Meets the Thunder God. Sci Transl Med 17 October 2012: