Surprise: Tobacco could eventually lead to new cancer treatment
When tobacco and cancer are used in the same sentence, the word “cause” usually goes in between. That’s why a new research from La Trobe University in Australia could confuse some folks — after all, the researchers discovered that tobacco could potentially be used for cancer treatment. Before you pick up that box of Marlboros, know that it’s actually a flowering tobacco plant named Nicotania alata, which isn’t even the same species used to make cigarettes, that has magical, cancer-beating properties. After a series of tests, the scientists have determined that NaD1 (a protein found in its pink and white flowers) can not only fight off plant fungi, but also kill cancer cells.
Apparently, NaD1 latches onto cancer cells with its pincer-like structure, causing them to form little balloons on the surface until they explode. But, what makes it an ideal cure is that while it attacks affected cells, it leaves healthy ones untouched. According to lead researcher Dr. Mark Hulett from the school’s Molecular Science program, a huge issue with the therapies we use today is that unlike the NaD1 protein, they attack cells indiscriminately.
Of course, the irony of it all didn’t escape his notice. He said:
There is some irony in the fact that a powerful defence mechanism against cancer is found in the flower of a species of ornamental tobacco plant, but this is a welcome discovery, whatever the origin.
Like any new medical discovery, though, the protein has to go through years of more rigorous testing and research. In fact, Hulett believes we have to wait at least 10 more years before it’s ready to step out of the lab and into the hospital.