Science News

Garlic Smart-bomb For Targeted Cancer Therapy

Sun, 11th Jan 2004

Part of the show Cancer, Cancer Diagnosis and Chemotherapy

Chemicals found in Garlic could be used as a new Smart Bomb to treat cancer. Allicin is a toxic chemical which is not present in whole cloves of garlic, but is produced in a reaction between two other chemicals held in separate compartments in each clove- these are an enzyme called alliinase and a harmless compound called alliin. When the clove is broken and the membranes separating the two chemicals are broken, they react with each other to form allicin. We’re not poisoned when we eat garlic because although Allicin is toxic it is also very unstable and breaks down quickly and harmlessly when eaten. Researchers from Isreal decided to try and recreate this reaction at the site of cancerous tumours. They did this by binding the enzyme to antibodies, which have been programmed to recognise distinctive receptors on the surface of tumour cells. When the antibodies are injected into the blood stream they seek out and bind to cancer cells. The other chemical alliin is then also injected, and where it encounters the enzyme, the toxic chemical allicin is produced which penetrates and kills the tumour cells. Healthy cells nearby are not affected by allicin because they haven’t attracted any antibodies. The technique has already been used to successfully block the growth of stomach tumours in mice and researches think the treatment should work for most types of cancer, as long as specific antibodies can be designed to recognise receptors unique to the particular type of cancer cells.

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