Pancreatic cancer cells are noted for their remarkable ability to endure even in extreme conditions of low nutrients and oxygen, a characteristic known as “austerity” in the oncology field. Their resistance to starvation is one of the reasons the disease is so deadly. A recent article published in the ACS’ Journal of Natural Products revealed that a certain Congolese plant has strong anti-austerityy” potential that could make pancreatic cancer vulnerable to nutrient deprivation approaches.
Named ancistrolikokine E3, the novel alkaloid compound was synthesized from the vines of the Ancistrocladus likoko tree. The team comprised of Japanese, German and Congolese extracted compounds from ground twigs and separated them by high-performance liquid chromatography.
They found that this new molecule could kill the pancreatic cells under conditions of nutrient starvation but not when nutrients were plentiful. Furthermore, ancistrolikokine E3 prevented migration and colonization, which suggests that the compound could also inhibit metastasis in patients.
Researchers noticed that the compound worked by inhibiting the Akt/mTOR pathway and marked this as “the first live evidence of the effect of a naphthyldihydroisoquinoline alkaloid against PANC-1 cells in the nutrient-deprived medium”.
It is estimated that each day about 1200 people are given a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Five year survival rates can go as low as 5% which is why finding better solutions to manage and treat the disease is such a concern. These type of natural solutions have the advantage of being particularly safe and generally well tolerated, making therapies so much more effective.
The study concludes that “Ancistrolikokine E3 (4) and related naphthylisoquinoline alkaloids are promising potential lead compounds for anticancer drug development based on the antiausterity strategy”.