Research from a Monroe laboratory is poised to make a significant impact on the health of cancer patients.
Their work on a compound that attacks prostate and breast cancer cells has just been patented. The source of the miracle compound is something that has a history of health problems and even death.
Tobacco was the driving force of the Southern economy until cotton came along.
Its leaves are most commonly used by cigarette companies, who increasingly get flack for diseases caused by smoking cigarettes. Researchers at the ULM College of Pharmacy have found that the leaves can actually be good for health
"We try to improve the activity. We try to use tobacco as a pharmaceutical use for compounds, instead of using it only for tobacco" says Dr. Khalid El Sayed.
Dr. El Sayed says the waxy substance on tobacco leaves contains a compound that can prevent the growth of cells associated with breast cancer and prostate cancer. The "anti-cancer" potential can also replace chemotherapy treatment. Dr. El Sayed also says the compound can prevent the spread of cancer cells to normal cells.
"Nature products are very important source for drugs, especially in the cancer area. More than 50 percent of current drugs on the market are based on or modeled on nature products. So nature is still the main source of main cancer treatment and will continue to be that," says Dr. El Sayed.
Dr. El Sayed and two other researchers started their project here at the ULM College of Pharmacy back in 2005. Three years later, they submitted a patent to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office just flask week, they were awarded the patent."
"We can sell it to another pharmaceutical company that may be interested to further develop this project into the market and that may be very expensive so we need future funding from the pharmaceutical industry," says Dr. El Sayed.
The compound only exists in fresh tobacco leaves. Once the leaves are broken down to be used in cigarettes, the compound is no longer there.
While the discovery will change the lives of cancer victims, it may give new incentive to tobacco growers, who can now plant something that helps instead of hurts.