WINDSOR, Ont. — Extract from dandelion roots dug out of lawns by a University of Windsor scientist and his students make cancer cells “commit suicide.”
Oncologist Dr. Caroline Hamm got the idea to look into dandelions after two leukemia patients refused their next course of chemotherapy, yet returned to the cancer centre not on stretchers, but with improved test results after a steady diet of dandelion tea.
Hamm contacted University of Windsor biochemist Siyaram Pandey. Two cases “were nothing, it could be coincidental,” Pandey said, recalling his early skepticism. But he did some preliminary research and set his students loose.
They meticulously dug up dandelion roots — thanks to Ontario’s pesticide ban, they didn’t have to worry about toxins — and applied the root extract they formulated to leukemia cells.
“There it did great, it did work,” said Pandey, who added the leukemia cells effectively commit suicide within 24 hours of getting the dandelion treatment.
“It killed the cells very selectively. It only killed the cancer cells. The regular cells were not killed.”
The results were recently published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacy.
“Here you have a non-toxic alternative to chemotherapy,” said John Dufresne, a retired University of Windsor biochemist who administers the program. Pandey’s research could lead to a product that could treat cancers resistant to chemotherapy drugs, he said. “It’s almost in a sense a naturopathic approach to cancer treatment and to me that’s very exciting.”
Pandey and his team — Hamm and students Pamela Ovadje, Sudipa Chatterjee, Carly Griffin and Cynthia Tragrants — are getting $60,000 over two years from the Windsor and Essex County Cancer Centre Foundation’s Seeds4Hope program to conduct further research.