HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At the University of Hawaii Cancer Center researchers have nature under the microscope.
"The idea is to take the natural products, the extracts from the plants, extracts from the marine creatures, the sea creatures, and bring them to the laboratory, and then determine how they can affect the growth of the cancer cells while they are not killing normal cells," Dr. James Turkson said.
His research team has found promising results in chemicals taken from sea sponges, lichens and poha berries.
"The first test we've done so far is showing really good response against human brain tumors that we've developed in mice," he said.
The Natural Products and Experimental Therapeutics program has screened over 700 plants, products and organisms, searching for the magic bullet to combat breast cancer and brain tumors.
"The sea lichens and sponges make unique molecules," Turkson said. "Our hope is that we find very potent chemicals that are not toxic. These resources are only unique to Hawaii."
Turkson is motivated by his mother. She died from cancer.
His team includes scientists from the UH, Chaminade, HPU and The Queen's Medical Center. He said if research goes as planned, it will take five to six years to begin testing natural compounds in clinical trials.