Research ArticlePancreatic Cancer

A Preclinical Evaluation of Minnelide as a Therapeutic Agent Against Pancreatic Cancer

Science Translational Medicine  17 Oct 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 156, pp. 156ra139
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3004334

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Vegetation Is Good for You

Your mom always told you to eat your vegetables, but what she probably didn’t tell you is that other plants can be good for you as well. Tripterygium wilfordii, sometimes known as the Thunder God vine, has various uses in traditional Chinese medicine. To better understand and improve upon the healing properties of this vine, the active ingredients have been isolated and characterized. One component of T. wilfordii, triptolide, has shown promising effects against pancreatic cancer cells. New therapies for pancreatic cancer—which is one of the most lethal human malignancies—are desperately needed, but triptolide is poorly soluble in water and thus has limited clinical use. Now, Chugh et al. synthesize a water-soluble form of triptolide, Minnelide, and demonstrate efficacy against pancreatic cancer in multiple animal models.

The authors tested Minnelide both in vitro and in multiple preclinical models of pancreatic cancer. Each model has distinct advantages and limitations: Well-studied cancer cell lines and translationally relevant patient tumors were transplanted into mice that lack immune systems, whereas a spontaneous model in immunosufficient mice was, by necessity, a mouse tumor. By combining these approaches, the authors addressed many caveats that frequently plague preclinical studies. Indeed, Minnelide was highly effective in treating pancreatic cancer in all of these complementary models. The next step is to take Minnelide into early clinical trials to see if these results can be reproduced in human patients with pancreatic cancer.