Queensland researchers believe future cancer drugs could be grown in sunflowers and ultimately delivered as a seed ‘pill’.
They’re a long way from that outcome. But, as they reported to the XVIII International Botanical Congress in Melbourne earlier this year, they have already shown that sunflowers make a precursor to cancer drugs as part of their defence against insect attack.
The precursor, a small ring-like protein fragment known as SFTI, has already shown potential as a cancer treatment. Until now, however, it has been considered too expensive to produce by conventional means.
This could all change, using plants as factories, says Dr Joshua Mylne of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland.
“Although SFTI and related proteins have shown great promise as drug templates, the cost to manufacture them has been a significant barrier to their widespread use,” Dr Mylne said.
“This issue could be solved using sunflowers. Seeds are an attractive system for the production of pharmaceuticals, as they are cheap to grow, and their contents remain stable at room temperature and are sterile inside the seed coat.
“There are also established systems in place for seed production, harvest, storage and transportation, meaning they could be the ultimate,low-cost, drug delivery system.”
PHOTO: DRUGS COULD BE GROWN IN SUNFLOWERS. CREDIT: CDANNA2003
For more information about this and other stories from the XVIII International Botanical Congress: www.scienceinpublic.com.au/botany2011