The plant annual wormwood, Artemisia annua L., yields the important antimalarial drug artemisinin. In addition to treating malaria, Henry Lai and co-workers, University of Washington, USA, have explored its ability to treat cancer. They show that applying either artemisinin or high-pressure oxygen to a culture of human leukemia cells reduced the cancer cells’ growth by 15 %. Using them in combination resulted in an additional 22 % decrease in growth.
Artemisinin forms free radicals on reaction with iron in cells. The higher oxygen levels promote the formation of free radicals, leading to increased cell death. As rapidly dividing cancer cells need iron to form new DNA, artemisinin-based cancer treatments could be more specific than current chemotherapeutic agents.
- Effect of Hyperbaric Oxygen on the Anticancer Effect of Artemisinin on Molt-4 Human Leukemia Cells
Y. Ohgami, C. A. Elstad, E. Chung, D. Y. Shirachi, R. M. Quock, H. C. Lai,
Anticancer Research 2010, 30(11), 4467-447.