UCL School of Pharmacy


How the UAE’s ancient yusor tree could help kill cancer cells

15 February 2022

Pharmaceutical discoveries of the last decades based on the systematic evaluation of higher plants include, for example, many anti-cancer agents like camptothecan, vincristin and taxol (and their derivatives) - all essential medicines in cancer chemotherapy.

Most recently Peplin, also known as ingenol mebutate (PEP005) was developed into a medicine for use in treating skin cancers (melanoma), but then had to be withdrawn from the market . This compound is derived from the garden or petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus). It remains a very active aspect of research in what is commonly called ethnopharmacology, a large field of investigation at the interface of plant biology, pharmacology, natural product research, but also the social sciences. 

Among the over 7,000 articles published in this area one recently looked at a tree from the Gulf region – the yussor tree (Moringa peregrina), an economically and culturally important relative of the drumstick tree (Moringa oleifera). Its leaves are widely used as a supplement. Early stage research on the leaves and stems has now given some important hints to further opportunities relating to potential effects on cancerous cells.  Professor Michael Heinrich (UCL School of Pharmacy) who is not involved in the study says "there still is a lot to do, but it is a crucial start of a potentially promising line of research. At this stage there certainly still is a long way ahead, before this could become a medicine."

Read: The National (UAE)


Professor Michael Heinrich