anamed discussion paper: Cancer and A-3
1. How does Artemisia annua anamed (A-3) cure malaria?
Artemisinin is described in chemical terms as a sesquiterpene lactone peroxide. Its lethal effect on the plasmodium is due to its two oxygen atoms in the peroxide bond. The plasmodium attack and digest the red blood cells, but because they cannot excrete the iron this accumulates within the plasmodium. When this iron comes into contact with the peroxide in the artemisinin, it breaks the peroxide bond, the oxygen atoms become charged and as such are called free radicals. These free radicals immediately attack the protein in the plasmodium, and the plasmodium are destroyed.
2. Why is it thought that A-3 may cure cancer?
Many cancer cells have a high content of iron. If it were available, they would absorb even more iron. Singh and Lai1 describe this as follows: “To accommodate a rate of iron intake greater than normal cells, cancer cells surfaces feature greater concentrations of transferrin receptors - cellular pathways that allow iron into a cell”. The hypothesis is that artemisinin will react with iron in cancer cells and kill those cells in just the same way as it reacts with iron in plasmodium.
3. First research results – in animal experiments
In 1995 J C Moore et al2, researchers in the USA, published the results of in vivo (i.e. in animals) experiments on rats in which cancer cells (fibrosarcoma) had been implanted. They administered ferrous sulphate in the morning, and six hours later three doses of dihydroartemisinin were given at two hourly intervals. Dihydroartemisinin, sometimes referred to as ARH, is a form of artemisinin that is soluble in water, and was produced from artemisinin extracted from Artemisia annua. (ARH is also produced within humans after taking artemisinin, whether as tablets or in the form of A-3 tea.)
They observed that the growth rate of the tumour was significantly retarded in rats treated in this way. Animals given only ferrous sulphate, or only dihydroartemisinin, showed no such effect. There were no apparent toxic effects. The authors concluded that an “artemisinin analog-ferrous salt combination may provide a novel approach for cancer therapy”.
4. Further research results – in human cells
In 2001 T. Efferth et al3 published the results of in vitro (i.e. test-tube) experiments in which the effect of Artesunate (“ART”, another water soluble artemisinin derivative) was observed on a variety of cancer cell lines. They found that ART was most active against leukaemia and cancer of the colon, less active against melanomas and breast, ovarian, prostrate, central nervous system (CNS) and renal cancers. ART was observed to be least effective with lung cancer. With leukaemia, ART was effective in cases where the leukaemia cancer cells have become resistant to other plant based drugs, e.g. vincristine. The authors concluded that “ART may be a promising 3 for cancer chemotherapy”.
Singh and Lai1 conducted research into breast cancer cells, which they say have 5 to 15 times more transferrin4 receptors on their surface than normal breast cells. Both breast cancer cells and normal cells were exposed to artemisinin. The results showed that artemisinin effectively killed radiation-resistant breast cancer cells in vitro. However, the effects on the normal breast cells were minimal. This simply goes to show that this herb might be a simple, effective and economical treatment for cancer.
5. Further research results – in humans
A patient suffering cancer of the larynx was given Artesunate injections and tablets over a period of nine months. His tumour was significantly reduced by about 70 percent just after two months of treatment. The patient also reported that he benefited much from this treatment. It actually prolonged his life and improved his quality of life. Once again, artemisinin had proven its amazing properties in killing cancer cells5. A German clinic has also told us of some good experiences with Artesunate in treating tumours.
6. The response of academia and governments
The response of the University of Washington, USA, to the research of Lai and Singh in 1996 was to file the following patent6:
“All cancer cells need plenty of iron to multiply. In other words, cancer cells have a much higher iron concentration than normal cells. During the study, the researchers pumped cancer cells with maximum iron concentrations and then injected artemisinin into them. The results revealed that artemisinin had the properties of killing and inhibiting cancer cells.” (US Patent Document 5,578,637, University of Washington, inventors Dr H.Lai and Dr NP Singh, November 26 1996.)
In contrast, anamed continues its research with artemisia, not for the purpose of profit, but for the benefit of the people of Africa.
7. The significance for anamed
- As with all scientific research we must assess the results carefully. For example it is not always the case that what works with animals works equally well with humans.
- Artesunate is expensive. Such a treatment for cancer would be very cheap for Europeans in comparison with conventional chemotherapy, but would still be very expensive in Africa.
- We have proven that A-3 tea is just as effective as Artesunate in treating malaria. It may well be the case that A-3 tea is just as effective as Artesunate in treating cancer cell lines.
- On an experimental basis, consenting cancer patients could be given iron tablets in the morning and A-3 tea in the late afternoon. This may certainly be an attractive proposition in the absence of chemical treatments, as is often the case in the rural areas of developing countries. Usually hospitals and health centres there have a plentiful supply of iron tablets, which are used in treating anaemia, and can grow A-3 themselves in their own garden.
8. The role of anamed Germany
anamed Germany will:
- not treat cancer patients.
- collaborate with research institutes that are seeking natural treatments for cancer.
- provide seeds of A-3 so that researchers and Natural Medicine practitioners have a plentiful supply of A-3 leaves.
- work in these ways only with the understanding that no patents will be taken out on the results or the processes.
9. Preliminary results with cancer patients and A-3 tea
Preliminary results with patients known to anamed who suffered various forms of cancer have shown that the tea sometimes has no effect, and sometimes the general health of the patient improves. This may be due to the stimulation of the immune system, or it may be due to a reduction in the number of tumour cells. It would be interesting to see whether A-3 tea has an effect on the level of tumour markers.
We request that all reports of your experiences be returned to anamed (page 4 and 5 of this the form). Thank you!
1 Singh N P and Lai H (2001), “Selective toxicity of dihydroartemisinin and holotransferrin toward human breast cancer cells”. Life Sciences, 70:49-56.
2 Moore J C, Lai H, Li J R, Ren R L, McDougall J A, Singh N P and Chou C K (1995), “Oral administration of dihydroartemisinin and ferrous sulfate retarded implanted fibrosarcoma growth in the rat”, Cancer Letters, 98(1):83-7.
3 Efferth T, Dunstan H, Sauerbrey A, Miyachi H and Chitambar CR (2001), “The anti-malarial artesunate is also active
against cancer”, International Journal of Oncology 18: 767-773.
4 Transferrin is an iron-transporting protein found in blood plasma.
5 Singh and Verma (2002), “Case report of a laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma treated with artesunate”, Archive of
Oncology, Vol 10(4), 279-80
6 See Artemisinin Study Abstracts, http://www.drlam.com/opinion/artemisinin_study_abstracts.cfm