Kerala's local herb 'Manathakkali' approved for liver cancer, research gets US FDA nod
‘Manathakkali’ (Black nightshade or Solanum nigrum), a berry-bearing shrub found in the backyard, is traditionally known for its medicinal value. Now the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has noticed the potential of a compound isolated from the plant to treat liver cancer, thanks to the findings of a team of scientists at Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB).
The US agency has given the compound an ‘orphan drug’ designation, which helps in the development and evaluation of new treatments for rare diseases. It will also help fast-track the drug’s approval. RGCB senior scientist Dr Ruby John Anto, who along with her student Dr Lekshmi R Nath isolated the drug molecule — Uttroside-B — from the leaves of Manathakkali plant, said: “There is only one FDA-approved drug available for liver cancer treatment at present. The compound we developed has found to be more effective than the one available. Toxicity evaluation in human volunteers has shown that the compound is also effective in treating fatty liver.”
The technology they patented has been bought by US pharma company QBioMed. The technology transfer was done through Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
According to RGCB Director Dr Chandrabhas Narayana, the research will prove to be a major breakthrough in treatment of liver diseases, including liver cancer.
Manathakkali: RGCB director says findings path-breaking
“The findings are pathbreaking, given that the liver which primarily detoxifies food while aiding digestion is found to be increasingly susceptible to cancer in modern times. The malignant disease of the liver is estimated to kill no less than 8 lakh people annually even as 9 lakh new cases are reported every year,” said the RGCB director. Dr Ruby and her team is currently studying the mechanism of action of the compound and evaluating its efficacy against fatty liver disease, non-alcoholic SteatoHepatitis and liver cancer caused by food toxins. This is done in collaboration with Dr L Ravishankar (CSIR-NIST, Thiruvananthapuram), who has developed a novel method to isolate the compound from solanum nigrum leaves.