Henry Lai and his team of researchers from the University of Washington synthesized the compound, which uses a cancer cells appetite for iron to make them the target. The great thing about artemisinin is that alone it can selectively kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.
“By itself, artemisinin is about 100 times more selective in killing cancer cells as opposed to normal cells. Artemisinin is 34,000 times more potent in killing the cancer cells as opposed to their normal cousins. So the tagging process appears to have greatly increased the potency of artemisinin’s cancer-killing properties.” – Henry Lai
Despite the compound being licensed to Holley Pharmaceuticals, it has yet to be used for cancer treatment in humans.
“We call it a Trojan horse because the cancer cell recognizes transferrin as a natural, harmless protein. So the cell picks up the compound without knowing that a bomb (artemisinin) is hidden inside.” – Henry Lai
The wormwood extract was used many centuries ago in China for healing purposes. The treatment became lost over time and has now been rediscovered thanks to an ancient manuscript containing medical remedies. It kills 12,000 cancer cells for every healthy cell, which means it could be turned into a drug with minimal side effects.
“The compound is currently being licensed by the University of Washington to Artemisia Biomedical Inc., a company that Lai, Sasaki and Narendra Singh, UW associate professor of bioengineering, founded in Newcastle, Washington for development and commercialization. Human trials are at least several years away. Artemisinin is readily available, Sasaki said, and he hopes their compound can eventually be cheaply manufactured to help cancer patients in developing countries.”