Properties of common garden plant found to kill cancer cells

Font Size:

Researchers at the University of Birmingham have produced a compound with anti-cancer properties using a common flowering garden plant.

The team extracted the compound from feverfew – a common flowering plant grown in many gardens.

The compound was modified and used to kill chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) cells – a form of cancer that commonly affects older people.

Feverfew – bachelor buttons – is grown in many gardens and is sold in some health food shops as a remedy for migraine and to relieve aches and pains.

University of Birmingham researchers were investigating the effects of ‘parthenolide’, a substance with anti-cancer properties that is found in Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew). Feverfew is a short-lived perennial plant, so, once it was discovered that the plant produced optimum levels of the compound, scientists had to come up with a way to produce enough for a series of studies.

Once this problem was solved, the Birmingham team developed a method to extract the parthenolide directly from plants, and then modified the process to produce compounds that killed cancer cells in in-vitro experiments.

“The parthenolide compound appears to work by increasing the levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in cells. Cancer cells already have higher levels of these unstable molecules and so the effect of the parthenolide is to increase levels of these to a critical point, causing the cell to die,” states Science Daily.

The findings, published in MedChemComm, revealed promising new ways to treat chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

“There are several effective treatments for CLL, but after a time, the disease in some patients becomes resistant. We were interested in finding out more about the potential of parthenolide. With expertise from colleagues in the school of chemistry, we’ve been able to demonstrate that this compound shows real promise and could provide alternative treatment options for CLL patients,” says study leader Dr Angelo Agathanggelou.

These compounds make them much more promising as drugs that could be used in the clinic.

“This research is important, not only because we have shown a way of producing parthenolide that could make it much more accessible to researchers, but also because we’ve been able to improve its ‘drug-like’ properties to kill cancer cells. It’s a clear demonstration that parthenolide has the potential to progress from the flowerbed into the clinic,” said Professor John Fossey, from the University of Birmingham’s school of chemistry.

While feverfew has positive heath benefits, long-term use followed by abrupt discontinuation may induce a withdrawal syndrome featuring rebound headaches and muscle and joint pains.

It may also cause allergic reactions, gastrointestinal upset such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and flatulence and may interact with blood thinners and a variety of medications and could increase the risk of bleeding.

Do you have feverfew growing in your garden? Have you ever used it to relive headaches or pain?

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.


‘Game-changing’ cancer treatment on the horizon

Drugs that can target any type of tumour are being fast-tracked in the UK.

Cancer can be a result of bad luck

A study has found that cancer comes down to ‘bad luck' rather than environmental factors.

Prostate cancer treatment linked to dementia risk

Men with prostate cancer may have more to worry about than just the prostate cancer.

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Sign-up to the YourLifeChoices Enewsletter

continue reading

Finance News

How much you can save on electricity in your home state

As we prepare to head into the colder winter months, there is good news for those worried about heating costs...


What is thrombocytopenia, and why did it stop the AstraZeneca jab?

Anthony Zulli, Victoria University; Maja Husaric, Victoria University; Maximilian de Courten, Victoria University, and Vasso Apostolopoulos, Victoria University Australia's medical...


Ways to manage death anxiety

Winston Churchill once said: "Any man who says he is not afraid of death is a liar." But while it's...

Food and Recipes

Rick Stein's Autumn Vegie Soup

"One of the rather pathetic realities of the fact that so many of the restaurants in France are disappointing these...


Australians give big thumbs down to the public service

Only 27 per cent of Australians believe the public service acts in the public interest and only 22 per cent...

Brain health

Normal tension glaucoma linked to cognitive impairment

Australian researchers say they have established a link between the eye condition glaucoma and cognitive impairment, the state that often...


Old wives' tales put to the test

Alice Shaw-Beckett, from cleaning company Cleanipedia, dissects 13 old wives' tales related to cleaning and pest control to discover whether...

Travel & Motoring

Consider this when deciding on a roadside assist deal

A reader raised an interesting point that I hadn’t considered before. When she bought her new car, it included -...