In a recent study published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science paired the active ingredient of a garden remedy with advanced bio-technology to deliver a powerful punch against cancer. The cancer killing effectiveness lies in their technique of arming a cancer-targeting antibody with the destructive potential of the dietary molecule otherwise known as "allicin."
Allicin is the product of an interaction between an enzyme, alliinase, and the small chemical alliin, which occurs naturally in plants such as garlic and onion as a defense mechanism against soil fungi, bacteria and parasites. Allicin molecules can easily penetrate biological membranes and kill cells, but their potency is short-lived hence the difficulty in finding a system to deliver them to a specific site. "The medicinal value of garlic is no longer an ancient Chinese secret," says the Institute’s Prof. David Mirelman. "Years of scientific research led to the identification and understanding of allicin’s mode of activity and we are currently studying ways to target and deliver its toxic punch."
The team, including Mirelman, Prof. Meir Wilchek, Drs. Fabian Arditti, Talia Miron and Aharon Rabinkov of the Biological Chemistry Department, and Prof. Yair Reisner of the Immunology Department, together with Prof. Berrebi of Rehovot’s Kaplan Hospital, adopted an approach that fastens the enzyme alliinase onto a specific antibody already in clinical use, Rituximab, designed to target and lock on to the surface of certain types of cancer cells such as lymphoma. When administered alone, Rituximab serves as a marker and docking point for the body's own immune system to kill the cancer cell. The Institute team demonstrated that cancer cells could be destroyed more efficiently by arming this antibody: They first chemically bound alliinase to Rituximab and then injected this conjugate into mice that had been implanted with human lymphoma cancer cells. As predicted, the Rituximab, with the attached alliinase in tow, soon found and bound to the target cancer cells. Subsequently, the mice were repeatedly injected with the inert chemical alliin which, upon contact with alliinase, was processed into allicin molecules directly on the cancer cell's surface. Within three days, almost all of the human lymphoma cancer cells were destroyed in those mice treated with the conjugate and alliin, while hardly any cancer cell destruction occurred in the control mice who received the conjugate alone.
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