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Common Weed Stops the Growth of Breast Cancer Cells, Scientists in London Report


A plant that had previously been discarded for not being medically useful could turn out to be a hero in disguise, after scientists discovered that it stops the growth of breast cancer cells.

Arabidopsis thaliana / thale cress flowers by Marie-Lan Nguyen, CC license

The groundbreaking research, which could lead to future advancements in cancer chemotherapy, starred Arabidopsis thaliana, also known as thale cress.

The leaves were treated with the plant hormone jasmonate, a substance discovered in jasmine that stimulates the plants’ response to stress. They then incubated the treated leaves with breast cancer cells.

The researchers found that not only did cancer cells stop growing, but normal cells were unaffected. This is important as the use of the plant in the treatment of breast cancer could lead to a faster recovery time and fewer side effects for patients undergoing chemical treatment. They have also discovered molecular mechanisms associated with changes in breast cancer cells that will allow the development of additional new treatments.

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Professor Alessandra Devoto, from the Department of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway University, has been conducting this research since 2006 and has just published an article on the findings in the diary New phytologist, along with Dr Amanda Harvey, from Brunel University, London, and Prof. Nicholas Smirnoff from the University of Exeter.

“I am really excited to have discovered the amazing impact this simple plant has on breast cancer cells. It just shows that even plants with a non-medicinal pedigree can work for cancer treatment, ”Professor Devoto said in a Brunel University Press Release.

“The plant looks a lot like ‘Cinderella’ from the world of medicinal plants; No one thought it was that special, but it has shown its true colors through our research. The discovery has important implications for the development of treatments for cancer and other diseases. “

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Dr Harvey and Professor Smirnoff added: “Combined with recent advances in metabolic engineering and biotechnology, our approach will also facilitate the production and analysis of valuable plant metabolite bioactivities on an industrial scale.

“We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Professor Devoto to identify plant-derived chemicals that interfere with breast cancer cells, as well as other diseases, and to advance this research by obtaining more funding to benefit the society of broader way. “

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