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Nanotech News

April 2007

Plant Product Inhibits Metastatic Growth in Bone
(special interest story)

Magnolia, the State tree of Mississippi, may one day become admired for more than its beautiful flowers and foliage, thanks to research conducted by investigators at Winship Cancer Institute. Leland Chung, Ph.D., a member of the Emory-Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Center for Personalized and Predictive Oncology, has shown that honokiol, a nontoxic compound isolated from Magnolia bark and seed cones, will trigger cell death in malignant prostate cells. More importantly, Chung and his collaborators found that honokiol dramatically boosts the activity of standard anticancer agents against bone metastases.

Chung and his collaborators chose to study honokiol as a potential therapy for metastatic prostate cancer because of earlier results from several research groups demonstrating that this compound interferes with a number of processes involved in tumor growth and metastasis with little associated toxicity. First, this team showed that honokiol triggers apoptosis in cultured prostate cancer cells. They then conducted a series of experiments in which they treated mice with treatment-resistant human metastatic prostate tumors with honokiol and docetaxel, an approved anticancer agent. These latter studies showed that even this combination therapy was effective at shrinking these tumors even when they used very low doses of docetaxel.

The investigators also found that the combined therapy had a lethal effect on the wide variety of cells that surround tumors and both support their growth and are necessary for metastasis to occur. The investigators reported their findings in the journal Cancer.

This work, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute, is detailed in the paper "Honokiol, a natural plant product, inhibits the bone metastatic growth of human prostate cancer cells." Investigators from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Hyogo College of Medicine in Nishinomiya, Japan, and the Weill Medical College of Cornell University also participated in this study. This paper was published online in advance of print publication. An abstract of this paper is available through PubMed.
View abstract.