B’luru doctor, team develop plant-based anti-cancer drug

Bengaluru: A Bengaluru-based oncologist and his team have developed a plant-based drug for cancer treatment which has got the ministry of Ayush’s approval for administration on humans.

Dr. Vishal Rao, a surgical oncologist and Sreenivas H, pharmacologist, department of research and development, Venkat Pharma, have co-invented Capcan, based on the anti-cancer properties of Simarouba plant. The technolo gy has been patented for anticancer agents targeting glycolytic pathways.

The research-based discovery has come in for appreciation from state biotechnology minister CN Ashwath Narayan, who is also the district incharge minister of Ramanagara, where the Simarouba plant is found.

“The study began in 2016, while we were working on a principle on how cancer cells grow using a tremendous amount of sugar levels, but by bypassing the mitochondria. The principle we developed was approved and published in an internationally reputed journal. The next effort was to look for a herb that displays similar properties. There were talks of Simarouba having several anti-cancer properties. There are 40-odd species. Pharmacologist Sreenivasa was able to identify the right one. Ganesh S, an organic chemistry PhD holder, suggested that the synergy of the composition comes from complete herb extract and not solely from its active ingredients. All these put together helped in developing the concoction,” said Dr Rao.

The team utilised the synergy of some potent herbs like aka which prevent vomiting and improve appetite; black pepper that improves absorption by secreting digestive Juices, tuta, the immune modulator which decreases sugar uptake by cancer cells, and ashwagandha which reduces tumour-associated inflammation.

The concoction has been tried on cancer cell lines outside of the human body. The results have been very promising. What we have achieved was a concoction having an optimal anti-cancer effect, without disturbing the immune system, cutting the glucose metabolism of cancer cells and reducing the chemical side effect of chemotherapy drugs. Many European countries have expressed interest in the product and collaborating with us. We hope to work with patients who are terminally ill and study the effects,” he said, adding that it has been found effective for solid cancer and leukaemia.

“We achieved what we tho ught we could- killing the cancer cell, activating the immune system and shrinking the tumour bit by bit. It might not be as drastic as a large dose of chemotherapy. I’m not saying it is a replacement for any of these yet. But it is a big step in a rethinking of the approach of science, making it more approachable and ac cessible and opening the doors for integrated medicine where both the groups respect each other,” he said.