Anti-cancer ingredient extracted in new way


Thu, Aug 09, 2007 - Page 2

Local agricultural researchers have developed a new and efficient technique to extract a key ingredient of cancer drugs from a plant endemic to Orchid Island (蘭嶼) and Green Island (綠島), sources at the Council of Agriculture said yesterday.

Ho Cheng-kuen (何政坤), a researcher at the council's Taiwan Forestry Research Institute, said the plant -- nothapodytes nimmoniana -- was first found by Japanese scientists more than two decades ago to contain a substance named camptothecin that has been proven effective against colon cancer.

Since then, nothapodytes nimmoniana has been utilized in colon cancer drug production, Ho said.

Ho said that however, the patents for a camptothecin-related drug -- Campto -- have been held exclusively by Japanese pharmaceutical companies, so that even though the plant is endemic to Taiwan and local researchers have known the effects of camptothecin, no further experiments could be done before the patent rights expired.

Ho explained that since the patent rights finally expire this year, the institute has initiated several projects to improve the extraction and production process that will help Taiwanese biomedical manufacturers gain some edge over the drug production.