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Nature's cure, researcher look to plants for cancer cures - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Nature's cure, researcher look to plants for cancer cures

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTBS) -

Earlier this month, the American Society of Clinical Oncology released a study that says cancer will be the country's number one killer in around 16 years. It predicts cancer rates to jump 45 percent by 2030. Research into cures and treatments for cancer is and will only become more important for our survival. Some of that research is taking place right here in Shreveport. Interestingly, some researchers are using common, nature made chemicals to find those cures and treatments. These nature made chemicals are often found in plants and foods.

"So, it is already nature made," Dr. Hari Koul, LSU researcher, said. "All we are trying to make is it a little better."

Koul is leading research efforts into a common Chinese herb. Compounds in the herb may help save men from a deadly cancer.

"We have found that it has cancer fighting properties," Koul said. "Specially in hormone resistant prostate cancer, for which there is no cure today."

Today's interest in research into nature made, disease fighting chemicals, really took off in the last decade. Koul says the practice has long been active. Take common headache remedy aspirin, which comes from the willow tree.

"We don't know how aspirin works, but we still consume it," Koul said. "Same thing with many other compounds."

Koul says research into these chemicals is much cheaper, mostly because we already know they aren't dangerous to humans. That cuts out some steps in the research.

"They have been consumed for many, many years," Koul said. "They are less toxic. So, you don't have to do the same toxicity profile that you do with a traditional drugs."

Koul points out that the chemicals can do harm if given in high doses or if mixed.

"They could become toxic, and they could also have interactions with other drugs that patients are consuming," Koul said.

While Koul studies a plant from Asia. A Steven F. Austin University researcher is looking in his backyard for plants that could contain medical breakthroughs.

"Our native plants could be much more valuable than we thought," Dr. Shiyou Li said.

Li has researched common plants for around 20 years. He's found the shikimic chemical in the sweet gum tree. It's the same chemical found in a Chinese herb used to make tamiflu.

"Actually, sweet gum leaves can turn about up to 13 percent, in dry weight, of shikimic acid," Li said. "So, global supply of tamiflu shouldn't be a problem."

Li has even found what he thinks may be a cancer breakthrough in giant salvinia leaves. The plants contain a new compound that looks promising but still needs more research.

"We've done a study," Li said. "Now, we need the animal and human clinical trial in the future. this takes about 12 to 15 years."

Koul says his cancer fighting chemical still needs research, as well, but hopes it could be in use next decade. Li's research into salvinia has also discovered a chemical in the plant's leaves that can be used to kill it.

 

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