You may know daffodils as the first sign of spring, hope and rebirth. It’s because of the trumpet-shaped flowers’ symbolism they have long been used by the Canadian and American cancer societies to promote awareness and help fund research into a cure for all types of cancer.
But in the not-so-distant future, the daffodil could literally be just what the doctor orders for people with biologically aggressive brain cancer.
An international research team has discovered a natural compound in daffodil bulbs, called narciclasine, that offers new hope to brain cancer patients, including gliomas and brain metastases, such as melanoma.
In the lab, the compound markedly reduced cancer cell proliferation and migration, according to research published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology in the November 2010 print edition of The FASEB Journal.
“The discovery doesn't mean that you should eat daisies or daffodils for what ails you, but it does mean that modern medicinal chemistry can pluck new chemicals from stuff that grows in the garden,” says Gerald Weissmann, M.D., the journal’s editor-in-chief.
Dr. Robert Kiss, Ph.D. and co-author of the study from the Institute of Pharmacy's Laboratory of Toxicology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Brussels, Belgium plans to move the compound to clinical trials within three to four years.
“We hope narciclasine could be given to brain cancer patients in addition to conventional therapies,” he said in a written statement.
If proven safe and effective for humans, this will be a groundbreaking cancer discovery because glioma tumors are traditionally difficult to treat. In addition to its location in highly sensitive brain tissue, this type of tumors is very resistant to traditional cancer therapies. Researchers think the resistance may have something to do with stem cell-like properties found in 97 percent of glioma tumors. Gliomas carry extra copies of the epidermal factor growth receptor (EFGR) gene, which causes rapid growth—often before there are any symptoms—and recurrence rates are high.