About 40,000 people are expected to die from breast cancer in the United States this year, according to the National Cancer Institute, but an evergreen tree extract, a very powerful drug, might assist in decreasing the mortality rate of breast cancer.
UC Santa Barbara scientists as well as scientists in the medical industry discovered how this specific drug can kill cancerous cells. Researchers have effectively determined the properties of this drug and cancer cells in isolated situations.
Two studies, published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, exist.
This anti-cancer drug is called maytansine and has shown positive results in lab trials for metastatic breast cancer patients. The drug is not FDA approved yet, but new trials are being conducted. The drug is also showing promising results on multiple myeloma and B-cell lymphoma.
The original tests have shown tumor shrinkage in 33 percent of patients for this study. The drug works as it targets microtubules in cancerous cells. The microtubules are what helps cells multiply and divide, and grow extremely fast.
Researchers discovered the drug is metabolized by cancer cells and effectively blocks mitosis of spindles — killing cancer cells.
Originally thought to be harmful to non-cancer cells, scientists added an antibody, forcing the drug to specifically target cancer cells and effectively reducing much harm to non-cancer cells.
The drug is called trastuzumab-DM1. DM1 is a manufactured product of maytansine, a fragment that is found in evergreen trees.