Prostate Cancer Discovery

A pretty little daisy vs cancer?

Does a pretty little daisy hold the key to successfully treating prostate cancer? That’s one of the questions researchers at Flinders are aiming to answer. 

Feverfew Tanacetum Parthenium L. is a medicinal herb with anti-inflammatory qualities that has been used for thousands of years to treat everything from migraine headaches to rheumatoid arthritis, stomach aches, toothaches, insect bites, infertility – and even as an enema for worms.  

Now, researchers at the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer are investigating whether it may also be useful not only in protecting ‘normal’ cells in men undergoing radiation treatment for prostate cancer – but also in killing off active tumour cells.  

The research is part of a bigger, long-term project Pam Sykes, Professor of Preventive Cancer Biology in the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer has been involved with for more than a decade. She is working on the new phase of research with PhD student Katherine Morel and an international research team including Professor Chris Sweeney from the Dana Faber Cancer Institute in the United States.  

Radiotherapy is often used to treat prostate cancer and although it is very effective in killing cancer cells, it commonly causes damage to normal tissue surrounding the tumour. In prostate patients, short and long-term side effects can include skin burns, pain, diarrhoea, incontinence, impotence and infertility.  

“In recent years there have been big improvements in restricting radiation treatment to target only the tumour itself, in an effort to reduce these unwanted side effects. We know that radiotherapy could kill more cancer cells if higher radiation doses were given, but the expected damage to the normal cells limits the amount of radiation that can be given to that organ affected by cancer,” Katherine said.  

“The aim of this research is to test whether the chemical compound found in feverfew, parthenolide, can specifically protect normal cells during radiotherapy while increasing the ability of the radiation to kill cancer cells.”

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