Cancer is one of the most feared diagnoses known to us due to the life-threatening consequences of its behaviour and major uncertainties with current anti-cancer therapies available in the health system. However, a world where a diagnosis of cancer elicits no greater concern than a diagnosis of simple influenza may not be far away. This sounds like science fiction yet already the lives of some domestic animals diagnosed with terminal cancer are being saved by one of the latest anti-cancer drug discoveries from an Australian rainforest.
Seeds from the fruit of the Fontainea plant grown in the Australian rainforest of Northern Queensland are the focus of attention at the moment due to the potent anti-cancer properties it contains. The first ever drug to originate from an Australian tropical rainforest, EBC-46 seems to be a non-toxic natural anti-cancer compound that can be isolated easily from the seed of the fruit. Fruiting occurs in young trees after only 2 years following planting.
Two former CSIRO scientists, Dr Paul Reddell and Dr Victoria Gordon from EcoBiotics, discovered EBC-46 in 2004 and are in the process of extensive testing on animals. Preliminary studies have demonstrated a remarkable ability to not only arrest the growth of cancer cells but actually shrink solid tumours in domestic dogs, cats and horses. Tumours start regressing within two weeks in many cases. The drug’s anti-cancer activity stimulates the body’s natural immune system to attack the tumour. As tumours form, some immune cells become trapped and inactivated inside the tumour. Injecting EBC-46 into solid tumours re-activates these trapped immune cells which begin to destroy the tumour from the inside. The process attracts other immune cells to the tumour site to aid and amplify the immune response to the point where solid tumours are cleared completely from the body.
Most solid tumours show a response to the drug making it a versatile anti-cancer treatment for tumours of almost any origin. Provided there is a solid tumour that is accessible for treatment the potential exists to at least reduce the size of the tumour if not eradicate it completely. This means cancers of the blood such as Leukemia cannot be treated with EBC-46. Studies so far have found success by using the drug alone without the need for other forms of chemotherapy or radiation. As such EBC-46 may be the wonder drug that revolutionizes cancer treatment protocol in the future for animals and humans. In humans it may have applications for all forms of skin cancer including melanoma, breast and prostate cancer, and perhaps any form of solid tumour. Although still at the pre-clinical stage of clinical trials in humans, the drug has so far passed safety and efficacy standards in mice and may soon be available for routine treatment in all animals.
For some individuals with widespread metastatic disease, other anti-cancer drugs may be required in combination since EBC-46 only works locally at the site of injection or topical application. New Australian anti-cancer drugs, called angiogenic inhibitors, specifically targeting metastatic disease are also being trialled in humans.