Research to assess plants in fight against cancer

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Health researchers at Robert Gordon University (RGU) have been awarded funding of almost £10,000 to investigate whether Scottish plants could hold the key to increasing the effectiveness of cancer drugs and boosting survival rates.

A research team led by Dr Gemma Barron has received £9,800 from medical research funding charity Tenovus Scotland Grampian for an 18 month project which will begin in February 2017.

Working alongside RGU researchers Dr Giovanna Bermano and Professor Cherry Wainwright from the university’s Faculty of Health and Social Care, Dr Barron will test Scottish plant extracts to see if they can help to reduce growing resistance to current cancer drugs.

The team, based in RGU’s Centre for Natural Products in Health, will also test the extracts to assess whether they could be used alongside cancer drugs as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) products.

Dr Barron said: “Medicinal use of natural products, such as extracts from plants, has existed for centuries – particularly in China – and are now widely available around the world.

“Several different types of cancer, including breast cancer, are becoming insensitive and resistant to the effective therapies currently available.

“There is evidence that some traditional Chinese medicines can enhance the effectiveness of western anti-cancer agents by preventing the removal of the drugs from cancer cells.

“However, it has not been investigated before if extracts derived from Scottish plants have similar properties and could be used alongside cancer drugs as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) products.”

Dr Barron is the only member of RGU staff to be awarded resources from Tenovus Scotland Grampian in the latest round of funding.

The university’s Natural Products group is also a key part of plans for a north-east Biopharmaceutical Innovation Hub as part of the City Region Deal which was signed recently.

Dr Barron said: “We are delighted to have secured funding from Tenovus Scotland Grampian to support this important work to assess the effectiveness of Scottish Plants in the on-going fight against cancer.

“Scientists from around the world are dedicated to finding the next breakthrough in cancer treatment and research, and we are proud to play our part in the north-east of Scotland.”

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