Anti-cancer compound found in plant may target malaria parasite

Virginia Tech researchers have recently discovered that a shrub used for medicinal purposes in Madagascar may be useful for developing drugs to target the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

The discovery, which has been published online in the Journal of Natural Products, relates how the researchers isolated a compound from the commonly-found flowering plant previously known to slow the growth of ovarian cancer, according to

"The next step in the research is to prepare analogs of the active compounds in hopes of finding some more stable compounds with even better activity," David Kingston, director of the Virginia Tech Center for Drug Discovery, said, reports. "The compound we've identified already appears to have better anti-malarial activity than Chloroquine, a standard drug on the market."

Kingston teamed up on the project with a pair of scientists from Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The biochemists, assistant professor Maria Cassera and graduate student Jessica Bowman, conducted bioassays on plants Kingston collected while in Madagascar as part of the Madagascar International Cooperative Biodiversity Group. Kingston then used a U.S. National Institutes of Health grant to test the plants for anti-malarial activity.

"Natural product compounds seem to be full of surprising benefits to cure human disease," Bowman said, according to "To be a part of the on-going research for transmission blocking agents is very rewarding."

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