One of the cancer industry's secrets is out. A common weed found throughout the United States is to be the active ingredient in a new generation of powerful cancer-fighting drugs.
The common American mayapple and Indian mayapple weed are to be used in the production of drugs for lung and testicular cancers, and brain tumours. The weed's magic ingredient is podophyllotoxin, a compound that's needed to produce the anti-cancer drug etoposide. It's also used for treating psoriasis and malaria, and tests are underway to see if it helps ease rheumatoid arthritis.
Researchers from the Mississippi State University discovered the cancer-fighting qualities of the mayapple weed after another podophyllotoxin-producing plant in Asia had been harvested almost to extinction.
They tested the leaves of the weed that had been collected from 18 states in the eastern part of the United States.
(Source: HortScience, 2009; 44: 349-53).