Never underestimate the unassuming manathakkali (Black nightshade), also called sukkuti keerai , growing abundantly in your backyard. Scientists have found that it can treat liver cancer.
This discovery by a research team led by Ruby John Anto, senior scientist at the Division of Cancer Research at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thiruvananthapuram, has received many international patents, including those from the US, Canada, Japan and South Korea. The work has been published in the nature group journal Scientific Reports .
Dr. Anto and her team, including her student Lekshmi R. Nath, identified a natural compound, uttroside B, present in the leaves of manathakkali ( Solanum nigrum Linn) that has liver-protective properties.
Liver cancer, mainly Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC), is the third leading cancer worldwide. “Sorafenib and Regorafenib are the only U.S. FDA-approved drugs currently available for the treatment of HCC. But they have limited therapeutic efficacy and serious toxicity/side effects,” says Dr. Anto.
The study reveals that uttroside B isolated from manathakkali is more potent than Sorafenib and does not have significant side effects . “It does not kill as many healthy cells as Sorafenib does while attacking the cancer cells.” This medicinal plant has been used in Ayurveda for liver health . In Tamil Nadu, it is used for treating stomach ulcers, piles, and mouth ulcers.
In collaboration with L. Ravishankar (CSIR-NIIST, Thiruvananthapuram), who has developed a novel method to isolate the compound from Solanum nigrum leaves, Dr. Ruby’s team is currently evaluating its efficacy against fatty liver, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, and liver cancer caused by food toxins.
She is also evaluating the efficacy and pharmacological safety of the compound in volunteers and in patients consuming Solanum nigrum leaves as part of their naturopathy and Ayurveda treatment against liver diseases in collaboration with Reny M.K., Chief Medical Officer, Punarjani Naturopathy Hospital, Wadakkanchery, and Siny J. Shaju, Medical Director, Aswini Theertham Ayurkendra, Kunnamkulam.
The preliminary data show promising results, even in patients suffering from chronic liver disease and HCC, says Dr. Anto.
The RGCB has been collaborating with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, U.S., for the research, development, and clinical translation of uttroside B. The compound is being manufactured by Chemveda, Hyderabad.
The technology is now being developed by the U.S.-based biopharma company QBioMed, for which the RGCB has received licensing revenues. Recently, QBioMed’s uttroside B program received orphan drug designation from the U.S. FDA against HCC, which allows fast track development and approval of the drug.