Monday, May 10, 2010

UIS cancer researchers seeing positive results using plant extracts

A student and faculty team at the University of Illinois Springfield has been using seven crude plant extracts to determine if they possess anti-cancer properties when testing human cervical carcinoma cells.

So far the results are promising, but more testing still needs to be done.

“Plant extracts of several species have been able to stop the cancer growth in the laboratory under specific conditions,” said Associate Professor Lucia Vazquez, chair of the Department of Biology.

The team is studying the effects of the plants thyme, clove, garlic, cumin, turmeric, oregano and coriander on cancer. Vazquez says at this point they aren’t ready to say drinking plant extracts could cure cancer, but the results are encouraging.

“It’s kind of a very initial phase of the research,” said Vazquez.

UIS senior biology major Angela McCauley volunteered to take on the project at the beginning of the semester. She’s been doing hands on research alongside faculty members.

“I don’t think a lot of people know that UIS is doing research like this. I grew up in Springfield and knew I wanted to go to UIS, but I had no idea what they were doing out here,” said McCauley.

McCauley will be graduating this month, but plans to return to UIS to pursue her master’s degree. She hopes to continue her research or hand the project over to another undergraduate student.

“These are one of the first human cell lines that have been put into cultures. Angela’s been really nicely handling them all semester long and introducing the plant extracts,” said Rebecca Landsberg, assistant professor of biology.

Landsberg has also been helping with the project. She says at larger universities, students like Angela wouldn’t have the opportunity they’re getting at UIS.

“We’ve really shown how many wonderful things undergraduate students can do in the lab,” said Landsberg.

Like many, McCauley was touched by the disease when a family member was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now she finds comfort in her research as she fights for a cure.

“Since then it’s been a touchy subject for me, so I think it helps me understand the topic and explain to other people why it happened,” she said.

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