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Indian Plant Compound Found to be Effective against Breast, Prostate Cancer

Update Date: Feb 15, 2013 08:30 AM EST

A compound derived from a plant from India can be used to treat many types of cancers, including breast, prostate and endometrial cancers, says a new study.

The plant has been used in India to reduce fever, inflammation and treat malaria for many centuries. Researchers from Georgia Regents University Cancer Center have found that "gedunin" can be used against certain cancers.

Usually cancer cells persist in the body by making use of molecular chaperones that protect their essential proteins, which is needed by the cancer cells to grow. These molecular chaperones are even tricked by the cancer cells in letting the mutated proteins from the cancer cells stay alive.

Although other researchers have identified certain molecular chaperones, like Hsp90 (heat shock protein 90), to be good targets for cancer treatments, none of these inhibitors have been effective in targeting specified chaperones. The role of heat shock proteins and potential use of HSP inhibitors is well observed in the breast cancers.

In the present study, researchers found that gedunin specifically attacks a helper protein of Hsp90 called p23.

Gedunin, an extract of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), has previously been found to be effective in stopping the growth of ovarian cancer cells in the lab.

"This compound binds directly to p23, leading to inactivation of the Hsp90 machine-without production of anti-apoptotic proteins-thus killing cancer cells. The idea here is that this will open a door for new ways of targeting Hsp90 by targeting its helper proteins, which may be used in combination with established Hsp90 inhibitors that are ongoing clinical trials. In the future, this research could have applications in drug development for hormone-dependent cancers, including breast, prostate and endometrial cancers," said Dr. Ahmed Chadli, a researcher in the Molecular Chaperone Program at the GRU Cancer Center and senior author of the study, in a news release.

The study is published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. 

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