A new drug developed from triptolide, a natural plant product with a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine (where it is known as lei gong teng or “thunder god vine”) appears to effectively fight pancreatic cancer. The drug could be a promising treatment for pancreatic cancer patients, who have few options when it comes to therapies. Previous work has shown that tripolide can inhibit protein called HSP70, which protects cells from dying. Pancreatic cancer cells may harbor too much of this protective protein. Rohit Chugh and colleagues discovered that that triptolide can reduce levels of HPSP70 in cells and subsequently reduce cancer in mice. Unfortunately, tripolide is not water-soluble, and so doesn’t work very well in the body. The team modified the compound, and the resulting new drug, minnelide -- named after Minnesota, the state it was developed in -- is tweaked for more effective delivery to pancreatic cells. The researchers tested minnelide in a handful of experimental models, including cell lines and in mice with transplanted human pancreatic tumors. They found in all cases that the drug is extremely good at killing tumor cells and shrinking tumors. The researchers next plan to do toxicity studies in larger animals, before taking minnelide into early clinical trials. A related Perspective discusses the findings.
Article: "A Preclinical Evaluation of Minnelide as a Therapeutic Agent Against Pancreatic Cancer," byR. Chugh; V. Sangwan; S.P. Patil; V. Dudeja; R.K. Dawra; S. Banerjee; R. Schumacher; B.R. Blazar; G.I. Georg; S.M. Vickers; A.K. SalujaatUniversity of MinnesotainMinneapolis, MN.