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April 26, 2022 – Did you know that many common medications, such as aspirin, had their start as plant products? Scientific interest is growing in plants as sources of unique agents specifically for cancer treatment, and Morris Animal Foundation has a long history of funding projects searching for novel chemotherapy agents, including these plant-derived therapies known as phytomedicines.

One of the best known phytomedicines used in cancer therapy is paclitaxel (Taxol). Derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree, paclitaxel is used in people and dogs. Another common chemotherapeutic agent is vincristine. Vincristine was first derived from the Madagascar (rosy) periwinkle and is used to treat lymphoma and leukemia in people and dogs.

Now, a new Foundation-funded study at Colorado State University is analyzing the effects of parthenolide, derived from the feverfew plant, on different canine cancer cell lines.

Feverfew has been used for centuries in the treatment of fevers, headaches and arthritis, primarily by blocking an important cell protein, NF-kappaB. NF-kappaB is present at higher levels in cancer cells and is an attractive target for chemotherapy.

“I think parthenolide could be a good adjunct chemotherapy,” said Dr. Lisa Schlein, a postdoctoral fellow and the study’s Principal Investigator. “We’re hopeful that parthenolide will be effective in treating especially dreadful blood cancers.”

The research team has focused on hard-totreat cancers and has seen promising results in cell cultures. They hope to move to a clinical trial soon.