Three new molecules similar to Grandifloracin, a chemical in the tropical plant Uvaria grandiflora found in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, have been shown to kill pancreatic cancer cells in a petri dish. Two of these molecules killed the cells more effectively than the original Grandifloracin molecule.

The research is published in the journal ChemMedChem.

Grandifloracin is known as a potent “anti-austerity” agent, able to suppress the ability of various pancreatic cell lines to tolerate conditions of nutrient deprivation, according to the study. Such anti-austerity agents represent a promising approach to cancer chemotherapy, according to the study authors.

Since pancreatic cancer causes few adverse events, many patients do not realize that they are affected until it has already spread to other organs, according to the press release. Pancreatic cancer is also very difficult to treat because the tumors have resistance to many anti-cancer drugs. The study authors believe that these molecules could become a valuable tool in combating the condition.

The aggressive and fast-growing nature of the disease leads to tumors that develop faster than the blood vessels can supply nutrient to them. This lack of nutrients would normally kill ordinary cells, but pancreatic cancer cells can survive these conditions and continue to grow.

Anti-austerity molecules can remove the ability of the cancer cells to tolerate these starvation conditions, while ordinary cells with a normal supply of nutrients remain unaffected.

“These so-called natural products are of great interest in the development of new drugs[…] As part of our ongoing research into the development of new treatments for brain cancers based on compounds found in daffodils, the research published[…] describes a compound also found in flowering plants that is able to selectively kill pancreatic cancer cells in a new way,” said Lorenzo Caggiano, MD, senior lecturer in the Medical Chemistry group at the University of Bath department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology.

"This exciting approach could potentially lead to a new drug to treat pancreatic cancers that is more effective yet less toxic than current treatments,” said Dr. Caggiano.

Reference
  1. Tropical Flower offers potential new route for treating pancreatic cancer. Univesity of Bath website. Published December 12, 2019. https://www.bath.ac.uk/announcements/tropical-flower-offers-potential-new-route-for-treating-pancreatic-cancer/. Accessed January 2, 2020.