Chinese herb may treat pancreatic cancer

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New York: An Indian-origin researcher at the University of Minnesota has discovered that triptolide — an extract of the Chinese herb thunder god vine (tirpterygium wilforii) — suppresses a key protein that helps pancreatic cancer cells thrive.

GRP78, a protein that protects cells from dying, is more abundant in cancer cells and tissue than in normal organs and is thought to play a role in helping pancreatic cancer cells survive and thrive.

“Our study shows that although increased expression of GRP78 confers a survival advantage to the tumour cells, prolonged exposure to triptolide induces chronic endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress that eventually leads to cell death,” Prof. Ashok Saluja said.

In this context, inhibition of GRP78 by activation of the ER stress pathway by triptolide offers a novel mechanism for inhibiting the growth and survival of pancreatic cancer cells, he noted.