Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Tree Bark Substance May Lead to Therapy for Cancer

Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Tree Bark Substance May Lead to Therapy for Cancer

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Researchers have determined how a substance derived from the bark of the South American lapacho tree kills certain kinds of cancer cells. The compound, called beta-lapachone, has shown promising anticancer properties. Until now, however, researchers did not know the mechanism of how the compound killed cancer cells.

Researchers recently found that beta-lapachone interacts with an enzyme called NQO1. In tumors, the compound is metabolized by NQO1 and produces cell death without damaging noncancerous tissues that do not express this enzyme. In healthy cells, NQO1 is either absent or is present at low levels.

In contrast, certain cancer cells--like non-small cell lung cancer--overexpress the enzyme. When beta-lapachone interacts with NQO1, the cell kills itself. Beta-lapachone also disrupts the cancer cell's ability to repair its deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), ultimately leading to the cell's demise. Applying radiation to tumor cells causes DNA damage, which results in a further boost in the amount of NQO1 in the cells.

Scientists tested dosing methods on human tumor cells using a synthesized version of beta-lapachone. …

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