This rare tree may supply cancer-fighting berries

A tree that only grows in Far North Queensland produces berries that might have anti-cancer properties, and researchers feel a compound in the berry could…
This rare tree may supply cancer-fighting berries

Cancer tumours destroyed by berry found in Queensland rainforest Drug derived from the fruit of the blushwood tree kills cancerous tumors. (Credit: QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute)

A tree that only grows in Far North Queensland produces berries that might have anti-cancer properties, and researchers feel a compound in the berry could kill head and neck tumors as well as melanomas.

The tree is called a blushwood tree, and it produces a purplish-colored berry that researchers feel could eradicate certain cancers within days–starting to work as quickly as within 5 minutes. This miraculous discovery is all thanks to the compound in the berries called “EBC-46,” a mysterious substance that, while difficult to extract, has proven to be successful in 75 percent of animal patients treated with it.

SEE ALSO: Are we any closer to cancer prevention?

“There’s a compound in the seed – it’s a very, very complicated process to purify this compound and why it’s there in the first place, we don’t know,” said Dr. Glen Boyle, from the QIMR Berghofer medical research institute, to ABC News. “The compound works by three ways essentially: it kills the tumor cells directly, it cuts off the blood supply and it also activates the body’s own immune system to clean up the mess that’s left behind. The surprising thing for us and the thing that we don’t see very often is the speed with which this occurs.”

Though the blushwood tree sampled for EBC-46 is only found in Far North Queensland rainforests, this is not the first time Australian blushwood has been examined for anti-cancer properties. In 2010, researchers from EcoBiotics, headed up by Dr. Victoria Gordon, looked at the properties of EBC-46, noting that the compound seemed to “liquify” cancer cells. The team successfully treated 50 critically ill dogs, cats and horses, with one tumor the size of a soda can completely healed.

“This is proving to be something exceptional,” she said of the research at the time. “The tumor literally liquefies. There is a rapid knock-down of the tumor, it disintegrates within 24 hours and we have a rapid healing response. The biggest tumor we treated was the size of a Coke can in a dog, and that animal is fully healed and healthy.”

Dr. Boyle’s research has further expounded on the findings of EBC-46, also examining which cancers it is effective against. “Usually when you treat a tumor it takes several weeks for it to resolve, but this is very, very rapid. There’s a purpling of the area, of the tumor itself, and you see that within five minutes and you come back the next day and the tumor’s black and you come back a few days later and the tumor’s fallen off.”

Currently the compound is only effective against cancers that can be treated via injection, which means metastatic cancers will not be on the list of treatable illnesses. It may, however, provide an option for treatment that has few to no side-effects, something very important in individuals that may be too weak to receive all their chemotherapy doses.

“Elderly patients for example who just can’t go through another round of chemo or can’t go through another general anesthetic for example, this could be used to treat those sorts of tumors and hopefully improve quality of life for people,” said Boyle.

SEE ALSO: Could the measles virus have cured a woman’s cancer?

The blushwood tree should not, however, be used to self-treat cancer, caution experts. No blushwood drug has been approved for use in people, and no clinical trials have been undertaken yet. There may be a number of yet unknown reasons why humans cannot tolerate EBC-46.

“We have been inundated with calls – it shows there is such a need for a breakthrough in anti-cancer treatment,” said Gordon. “Most people understand when we explain the situation (that EBC-46 should not yet be used on people).”