December 15, 2006

Cancer drug found in Jamaica plant

by Ross Sheil – Jamaica Gleaner Dec.15.06

Two scientists presented research findings Tuesday showing that a pair of endemic Jamaican plants can help cure five cancers, potentially giving the country a lucrative share of the global chemotherapy drug market.

Jamaican biochemist Dr. Henry Lowe discovered the plants, while his American research partner Joseph Bryant, laboratory animal veterinarian at the University of Maryland Institute of Human Virology (IHV), conducted the tests on cancer tumour cells in test tubes and then transgenic mice – whose DNA has been modified to incorporate human genes.{{more}}

What Dr Lowe told The Gleaner could be a “new Jamaican brand” could begin commercial production within three to five years as an alternative to existing cancer drug Taxol, but Dr Bryant said one to three years. Taxol had worldwide sales of US$764 million in 2005 before generic alternatives became available this year.

“This has huge financial implications both for the country in terms of tax revenues and foreign exchange earnings, and for the scientific community,” said Dr. Lowe. “We also look to form an institute (from the profits) as well as fund training and to research the further exploitation of Jamaica’s plants.”

They said an international patent was submitted last week but that they could not reveal the names of the plants for reasons of industrial secrecy.