Kerala’s ‘manathakkali’ to treat liver cancer | News Thiruvananthapuram



THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The black nightshade shrub has been shown to have a useful compound for treating liver cancer. The compound — Uttroside-B — isolated from the plant as part of an ongoing research program at the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology (RGCB) has been designated an “orphan drug” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States.
The leaves of ‘Manathakkali’, a perennial shrub (Solanum nigrum) common in backyards of houses and along Kerala trails, have immense properties to protect the largest internal organ of the human body from uncontrollable cell growth said a team of scientists from RGCB working on the project.
The “orphan drug” designation supports the development and evaluation of new treatments for rare diseases and enables rapid drug approval. The technology patented by Dr. Ruby John Anto, senior scientist at RGCB, and his student, Dr. Lekshmi R Nath, was purchased by US pharmaceutical company QBioMed.
The technology transfer was done through the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, the RGCB revealed on Wednesday. Dr Ruby and Dr Lekshmi isolated the drug molecule, Uttroside-B, from the leaves of the Manathakkali plant.
RGCB director Dr Chandrabhas Narayana said the research has the potential to be a major breakthrough in the treatment of liver disease, including liver cancer. QBioMed’s first milestone payment has already been received, he said.
“The results are revolutionary, as the liver, which primarily detoxifies food while aiding digestion, is increasingly susceptible to cancer in modern times. It is estimated that the malignant disease of the bile-producing organ kills as many as 800,000 people a year even as 900,000 new cases are reported each year, ”he said.
In collaboration with Dr L Ravishankar (CSIR-NIST, Thiruvananthapuram), who has developed a new method to isolate the compound from the leaves of Solanum nigrum, Dr Ruby and his team are currently studying the efficacy of the compound against fatty liver disease, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and liver cancer caused by food toxins.
Dr Ruby said that at present there is only one drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of liver cancer.
The compound developed by her team is proving to be more effective than the one available, she said. Evaluation of toxicity in human volunteers has shown that the compound is also effective in the treatment of fatty liver disease.
Recent results from Dr. Ruby’s lab indicate that chloroquine phosphate, a drug used against malaria, if used in a combination regimen with Uttroside-B, can dramatically improve the therapeutic efficacy of Uttroside- B against liver cancer.
The technology has been patented by the United States, Canada, Japan and South Korea. The research has been published in the Nature journal group, “Scientific Reports”.


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