Anti-cancer Plant Chelidonium Majus
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Branislav Slavnic
Posted on: March 3, 2002

My name is M.D. Branislav Slavnic and I am interested in phytotheraphy, especially in the anti-cancer plant Chelidonium majus Papaveraceae. I would be grateful if you can sent me reprint of some scientific research work where is it explained how the substance CHELIDONINE affects on pulmonary cancer cells.

As early as 1933 M. Grieve in her classic "A Modern Herbal" noted that the herb celandine (Chelidonium majus) may have anti-cancer properties, based on Russian folkloric experience with the herb. In 1978 a semi-synthetic anti-cancer extract called "Ukrain" was first developed from celandine by Dr. Wassyl J. Nowicky. Ukrain contains chelidonine which is presumed to have a role in the extract’s anticancer effect. The National Cancer Institute in the United States has tested Ukrain on 60 different human cancer cell lines and found that in almost all cases, Ukrain stopped cancer growth 100%.

In a recent study, NSC-631570, a semi-synthetic derivative of chelidonine, was shown to disrupt the cell cycle in pancreatic cancer cells but not in normal cells leading the authors of the study to conclude that NSC-631570 "might be a new therapeutic option in cancer therapy" (http://www.kargerabstracts.com/pdf/0001065.pdf). The mechanism is thought to involve a disruption of tubulin polymerization. Tubulin is protein that is critically important in stages of the cell cycle leading to cell division. By selectively attacking the ability of cancer cells to divide, it is possible to stop cancer cells without affecting normal cells.

However, when the effect of chelidonine by itself on cancer cells was studied it was found that while chelidonine does indeed stop tubulin from polymerizing and thus disrupts the formation of microtubules in cells, the disruption was not limited to only cancer cells. In other words, chelidonine disrupted normal cells as well. The authors of the study (http://www.urbanfischer.de/journals/ejcb/content/2001/issue1/2510135a.pdf) conclude that "chelidonine, a major componenet of Ukrain(tm) is not a selective inhibitor of cell growth." Rather, they suggest that their results "imply that the lack of side effects of Ukrain(tm) might be due to insufficient dosages being administered [to cause side effects], rather than to any selective toxicity of the drug." Clearly, more research is needed to explain how chelidonine works.

A list of papers on Chelidonium majus from 1984 to 2000 can be found at http://www.newcrops.uq.edu.au/listing/chelidoniummajus.htm.

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