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Rainforest Plant Yields Breast Cancer Fighter

Amazon plant compound stopped growth of malignant cells in lab

THURSDAY, Feb 10, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A compound derived from a rare South American plant shows promise as a treatment for breast cancer, according to a University of Virginia Health System study.

The compound, called SL0101, comes from the plant Forsteronia refracta, a member of the dogbane family that grows in the Amazonian rainforest.

The Virginia researchers say SL0101 stopped the growth of human breast cancer cells in laboratory cultures. The compound inhibits the action of a protein called RSK, which is important for controlling the growth of breast cancer cells but does not alter the growth of normal breast cells.

"By preventing RSK from working, we completely stopped the growth of breast cancer cells, but did not affect the growth of normal breast cells," researcher Deborah Lannigan, an assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Virginia Cancer Center, said in a prepared statement.

She and a colleague are now testing whether SL0101 can prevent the growth of human tumor cells in mice. It would likely be years before any human clinical trials took place, Lannigan said.

The study was published in a recent issue of Cancer Research.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer.

SOURCE: University of Virginia Health System, news release, February 2005
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