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26 August 2011, 06:00
Portsmouth scientists have revealed plans to develop new treatments to battle ovarian cancer using extracts from tropical plants.
Ian Cree, Professor of Histopathology, Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Portsmouth, found several plant extracts killed tumour samples taken from cancer patients.
Now, working with colleagues at the University of Strathclyde, he is developing a programme to test the powers of plant extracts to help tackle cancer.
Prof Cree said the extracts are complex mixtures of many different chemicals and ingredients in the plants which could be used as starting points for new medicines.
He said: "This is a first - no-one has managed to use cells obtained directly from cancers to screen an entire library of plant extracts and we are very excited by the results obtained.
"The key now will be to obtain further funding to produce drugs from those samples showing that they can kill cancer cells.
"The method could also be used to find drugs to treat other cancers.
"It should be stressed that drug development is a very lengthy process and that these results, though exciting, are a long way from being used in patients."
Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women, affecting more than 6,500 in the UK alone each year.
It is also one of the most deadly, killing more than 4,000 women in the UK annually, despite survival rates nearly doubling in the past 30 years.
Alan Harvey, Professor of Pharmacology at Strathclyde's Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, said: "Ovarian cancer's inherent danger to women's health is compounded by the fact that it is notoriously difficult to detect.
"The disease's high death rates urgently need to be dealt with through safe and potent new treatments.
"Our collection of natural plant samples gives us a broad range of possibilities for treatment and we have had good results from many plants.
"A great many samples have been studied in our collaboration with Portsmouth and a lot of activity has been detected that wouldn't have been picked up in conventional tests.
"The high throughput screening in the method we have used has produced a high return and we are hoping that more tests will bring new treatments a step closer.''
The research was funded by the Portsmouth Hospitals Trust Rocky Appeal, which bought the equipment used in the trial, and by CanTech Ltd.