London: A poison used by Zulu tribesmen on the tips of their arrows and
surprised scientists by successfully attacking tumours in cancer patients.
Extracted from the root bark of Combretum caffrum, also known as the Cape
bushwillow, the poison has opened up a radically new way of combating solid
tumour cancers, which make up about 90 per cent of cases yet often defeat existing
The extract of Combretum caffrum is also used in traditional African medicines
was one of a wide range of plant remedies investigated by scientists in the Cancer
Research Institute and Arizona State University in the late 1970s. Unlike
conventional tumour treatment, which often destroys healthy as well as cancerous
cells, the Zulu poison targets only blood vessels formed inside tumours. Why the
poison does this is still unknown. By shutting off the cells' supply of oxygen and
nutrients, the poison stops a tumour thriving, and forces it into decline.
British scientists said the first clinical trial of a compound based on
the poison, known
as CA4P, has shown that it is safe and effective in cancer patients.
Reporting their findings at the annual meeting of the American Society
Oncologists in San Francisco, the scientists said tumours in half the patients in the
study had shown a 50 per cent reduction in blood flow - confirming the anti-cancer
potential of CA4P.
Dr Gordon Rustin, of Mount Vernon Hospital in London, who carried out the
for the Cancer Research Campaign, said trials using CA4P together with
conventional anti-cancer drugs would begin by the end of the year. If these were
successful, patients with colon, ovarian and lung cancer could benefit within three
CA4P is the latest in a number of potent natural anti-cancer drugs to be
scientists. They include taxanes, extracts from the bark of the Pacific yew, and garlic.
The Telegraph, London 5/18/01
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