Primrose-Based Compound Could Halt Cancer Growth

Preliminary testing shows that a compound extracted from the Christmas berry primrose plant inhibits metastatic growth of uveal melanoma.

Researchers from Thomas Jefferson University investigated whether a compound derived from an ornamental plant in the primrose family known as Ardisia crenata might be able to fight the disease. The compound—FR900359 (FR) was discovered 30 years ago from the plant’s leaves. FR works by blocking Gq, a protein that sits on a cell’s membrane and is an important signaling molecule. In uveal melanoma, a subset of these proteins is mutated, turning on a molecular pathway that leads to cancer growth.

The team grew three different types of uveal melanoma cells that have the cancer-triggering mutations in the lab, and then treated the cells with FR. When the uveal melanoma cells were treated with small amounts of FR, the cells appeared to revert from cancer cells to typical melanocytes. “FR appears to be able to help reset the cells back to their normal state,” said Jeffrey Benovic, Ph.D. “Ideally that’s what you want.”

Higher doses of FR killed the cells, the researchers reported. The results suggest the compound could one day be an effective drug to treat uveal melanoma.

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