Cures for cancer in nature next CTRC lecture topic

SAN ANTONIO (March 2, 2012) – Nature has provided us the materials for many of the most effective medicines in use today, and science continually looks to nature to find what other healing compounds it holds.

Two scientists from the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center will discuss this, and their own research on plant-derived cancer-fighting compounds, at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center’s March 8 free public lecture.

One way to develop new cancer drugs is to test compounds that have long been in use in traditional medicines, such as the cork tree bark used as a Chinese herbal remedy for inflammation and digestive problems. Pratap Kumar, Ph.D., co-leader of the CTRC’s Cancer Prevention and Population Science program and a professor of urology, has been working on the extract of cork tree bark in the lab for several years, and last year began testing it in clinical trials to prevent recurrence of prostate cancer.

“The beauty of this medicine is that it is inexpensive and already widely available as a supplement,” Dr. Kumar said. “It has the potential of being a much less costly cancer prevention drug than most on the market today.”

Another method is to investigate plants that have never been used as medicine. Susan Mooberry, Ph.D., co-leader of the Experimental and Developmental Therapeutics Program at the CTRC and a professor of pharmacology, spends her days looking for the cancer-fighting properties in plants. Dr. Mooberry currently is identifying new compounds from the tropical bat flower plant that have the potential to serve as an alternative to paclitaxel, a drug derived from the yew family.

“We have already found compounds that killed cancer cells that were resistant to paclitaxel,” Dr. Mooberry said. “Now we have found totally new, yet related compounds that do that job and are 1,000 times more potent than our initial leads.”

At the same time, she and her team are sifting through some of the toughest Texas plants to see what potential medicines they might yield.

“The plants of Texas thrive in our sometimes-harsh environment, and to do so they use chemical defenses,” Dr. Mooberry said. “We are investigating this chemistry to find new leads for treating cancer.”

The lecture is set for 6 – 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 8, 2012, on the 4th floor of the CTRC’s Grossman Building, 7979 Wurzbach Rd. For more information, call 210-450-1152.

This is part of a series of free CTRC monthly public lectures on cancer designed for the general public. The series is sponsored by H-E-B and the Institute for the Integration of Medicine and Science at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.

The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit

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