27 September 2021

The cancer-killing orchid

The Back Page

While humankind has done its best to swallow, sniff and snort every drug nature has to offer, there are still plenty of chemicals to be tried. 

One such chemical is erianin, a natural bibenzyl compound present in Dendrobium chrysotoxum, an orchid species native to Southeast Asia.

The orchid looks something like this… (Kidding, it’s the pretty yellow ones at the top)

Australian researchers have found that erianin has anti-tumour effects.

The team at the Centenary Institute found that erianin elevated levels of a fatty acid called C16 ceramide inside the androgen-dependent prostate cancer cells. 

This caused the cells to die through a process called endoplasmic reticulum stress-associated cell death.

The chemical didn’t work directly on castration-resistant prostate cancer cells, but artificially increasing C16 ceramide in these cells in addition to using erianin was successful. 

“Novel treatments for prostate cancer are urgently needed,” said Dr Qi.

“Up to twenty percent of patients receiving androgen deprivation therapy progress to advanced prostate cancer within five years.

“We’ve shown that erianin could play an important role in the development of new medical drugs that are able to target both early and late-stage prostate cancers, potentially benefiting many patients and helping save lives.”

The Back Page is in no way suggesting that people with cancer should ingest orchids. Or people without cancer who are insatiably curious. Leave them orchids alone and send story tips (or daffodils) to felicity@medicalrepublic.com.au.

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