This article first appeared in New Dawn Special Issue Volume 10 Number 5 October 2016. © Brett Lothian.
Blushwood: The Endangered Australian Native Cancer Killer
An amazing discovery has been made in the Atherton Table lands region (near Cairns) of tropical far North Queensland, a family of shrubs and small trees thats flowers, seeds, leaves, roots, wood and bark contain a compound that kills cancerous tumors in a matter of mere days, with no long term side effects. Plants in the Fontainea family, especially Fontainea picrosperma/Hylandia dockrillii, and Fontainea venosa, more commonly known as the Blushwood tree or shrub, has been shown in animal studies, as well as in initial human studies, to be remarkably effective against solid tumors such as melanoma, head, neck and breast cancers, some of the biggest killers in the world each year. The problem is, these much needed miracle plants are largely endangered in the wild, with only a few small pockets being known of for some, and the only propagation of these amazing plants is currently under the control of the pharmaceutical industry.
The initial discovery was made by Dr Victoria Gordon and Dr Paul Reddell of EcoBiotics in 2006, who observed that marsupials find the seed of Fontainea picrosperma/Hylandia dockrillii unpalatable due to an inflammatory chemical present in reasonably high concentrations. Gordon and Reddell sent off a batch of crushed kernels to a commercial lab in Sydney to investigate any possibly useful compounds, finding powerful anti cancer properties in a compound named EBC-46 and powerful wound healing properties in a compound named WH-1. Scientists at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, led by Dr Glen Boyle tested the compound EBC-46, on a tumour cell line and were astonished by its effectiveness. When applied to a laboratory mouse implanted with human skin cancer, the melanoma turned red and purple, then melted before their eyes.
Since then, the drug has been tried experimentally on various animals that were diagnosed by veterinarians and given a poor prognosis, most being considered candidates for euthanasia prior to participating in the study. Dogs, cats, horses, pigs, sheep, ferrets, guinea pigs, goanna, birds, even the endangered Tasmanian devil were tested, amazingly these animals that had been on death’s door prior to the study had their melanoma tumors disappear after treatment in the lab by Dr. Boyle and his team of scientists at QIMR, obliterating tumors in nearly all of them. Dr Boyle stated that “In most cases the single injection treatment caused the loss of viability of cancer cells within four hours, and ultimately destroyed the tumors.”
Herein lies the beauty of the compound, or at least in how it has been seen to work in animals and the early human clinical trials, in most cases, a set of five or six injections does the trick, but a follow up course can be required. Dr. Boyle says EBC-46 works in part by triggering a cellular response which effectively cuts off the blood supply to the tumor. “In more than 70 per cent of pre clinical cases, the response and cure was long term and enduring, with very little relapse over a period of 12 months.”
Evidently, the Blushwood shrubs amazing healing properties do not stop there, it also kicks up the bodies natural healing response, healing the wound with soft, new skin and reduced scarring.“Some of the wound healing we’ve witnessed so far in pilot studies with pet dogs has been remarkable. These animals had chronic non-healing wounds that weren’t responding to current standard of care treatments before being treated with our new compound,” said Dr Gordon. “Based on these extremely encouraging results we are now moving to more fully evaluate the prospect of developing this drug as a treatment for both chronic and acute wounds. Wound healing is a large market ($14 billion annually in the USA alone) where there is significant demand for new and effective products for application in both human and veterinary medicine,” said Dr Gordon.
Of the 344 animals treated to date about two thirds of them dogs 78 per cent ended up cancer free or with tumor mass reduced by more than half. Fewer than nine per cent failed to respond. Bone cancers and highly fibrous tumors have so far proven to be resistant, possibly because not enough EBC-46 can penetrate into the cancer. EcoBiotics is also progressing with its plans in international veterinary cancer markets, following approval from the US Centre for Veterinary Medicine for further studies on the treatment of canine mast cell tumours with EBC-46. This approved study will involve 10 investigative sites and 120 cases for the treatment of canine tumours, and would be the final clinical step to use of the product in the US for canine mast cell tumors. Dr Gordon said once the study was completed, the company would seek regulatory approval from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to make the drug commercially available to the domestic vet market.
Multi-centre human Clinical Phase I/II trial, which started in 2015, are showing encouraging results. According to Dr Gordon, the study has now treated eight human patients. “This study is primarily being undertaken to examine the safety of EBC-46,” Dr Gordon said. “The drug has been well tolerated by all patients treated. In addition, sound evidence of efficacy has also been noted in tumors of all the patients treated. This is shown by the appearance of bruising and initial tumor breakdown on the section of the tumor treated. This response in humans is very similar to what has been seen in the successful veterinary studies with EBC-46 where full tumor destruction is noted.” Tumor types in the human trial treated to date are melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and breast adenocarcinoma.
Denise Powell, one of the cancer sufferers who has joined the trial in Queensland, had a tumor in her armpit that was getting progressively worse, “My cancer surgeon said, ‘I can take that one out, if you get any more you might lose an arm.” Doctors injected the trial drug EBC-46 directly into Denises tumor, “In less than 20 minutes the tumor had gone purple then black,” Denise said. “Then within a couple of days the tumor just kind of shrivelled up and died”. Dr Gordon said none of the patients, who were treated at hospitals in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, showed any negative side effects from the drug. “These initial results, that are clearly showing potential for a good safety profile for the drug combined with early signs of efficacy in a range of tumor types, are very encouraging,” said Dr Gordon. “The exciting thing is the drugs are responding in exactly the same way in tumors in cats, dogs and horses. It’s proving our theory that it’s not species specific, and it’s not tumor specific either, because it’s actually working in a range of tumors.” She expected the drug, once it had been trialled on at least 11 more human patients, would become commercially available within the next four years. Encouraging to say the least.
What is not encouraging however is the threatened status of these endangered plants and the way that this discovery has been reported so far in the mainstream media. Whilst this amazing discovery has garnered a small amount of press coverage, in every article in the mainstream media I could find, the only plant mentioned to be containing EBC-46 and WH-1 is Hylandia dockrillii, the Blushwood shrub. None of them mention that Hylandia dockrilli is synonymous with Fontainea picrosperma or that the initial study identified Fontainea pancheri, Fontainea australis, Fontainea borealis, Fontainea fugax, Fontainea oraria, Fontainea rostrata, Fontainea subpapuana and Fontainea venosa as containing EBC-46 and WH-1. With Fontainea picrosperma, or Hylandia dockrillii and Fontainea venosa found to be the most useful. Also they do not mention that numerous other compounds discovered in the fontainea genus also show remarkable promise in regards to killing cancer as well as treating other ailments. Now, this may have been simple over site, the writers editing down to fit word counts or perhaps an attempt keep the compounds EBC-46, WH-1 and the Blushwood shrubs relatively obscure from the public, therefore protecting the discovery for the‘big pharma’ industry. Whilst EcoBiotics and it’s subsidiary QBiotics (which is developing these compounds), are not ‘big pharma’ in themselves, being a small Queensland company, they will have to find a lot of funding if they are ever to get these compounds to market, which means selling the rights to the compound to the big boys.
If EBC-46 gets through to Clinical Phase III, the critical proving trial that generally involves thousands of patients around the world (which it appears so far that it will, with flying colours), it will have burned through all of the cash EcoBiotics have raised, and more. The majority of their 1200 shareholders are mums and dads who have kicked in as little as $1500; the biggest single outside stake in the unlisted company is $1 million. This is more by accident than design. Dr Gordon initially did the rounds of venture finance providers but was rebuffed; prove it up and come back to us, the money men told her.
The expense of getting a drug to market is staggering, which helps explain why so few get through in Australia. Picato, a rare success story, had $130 million ploughed into it by Danish outfit LEO Pharma before being registered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration last year. In a small pond, Australia’s CSL is the nearest thing there is to a big local fish. Yet to meet the development cost it had to license the international rights of Gardasil - the controversial cervical cancer vaccine pioneered by 2006 Australian of the Year Ian Frazer - to US giant Merck. Dr Gordon estimates that EBC-46 will require north of $600 million to be made into a medicine - completely out of their league. She and Reddell have structured the company so that the subsidiary, QBiotics, contains the intellectual property and could be peeled off for outright sale or a stock market float. Which is most likely what will end up happening seeing the extraordinary promise of the Blushwood extracts EBC-46 and WH-1.
The rights to these compounds ECB-46 and WH-1 may be owned by Ecobiotics through their subsidiary QBiotics, but they do not own the plants they are derived from. They certainly do deserve credit and to do extremely well out of their discovery and hard work. I in no way wish to disparage the truly fantastic work Dr Victoria Gordon and Dr Paul Reddell of EcoBiotics have done and genuinely do hope that they get these compounds to the market, as they are sorely needed no matter how it happens. What I do not want to see however is only ‘big pharma’ growing these plants and controlling access to them. This is where I hope the intrepid readers of New Dawn magazine and Tricho Serious Ethnobotany can help out.
I would like to call upon the New Dawn and Tricho Serious Ethnobotany readers in the areas where these plants grow, to actively hunt down these plants in habitat and procure seed and or cuttings, so that these amazing life saving plants themselves can be saved, for all of us. The nine currently known species of Fontainea grow naturally in Queensland and New South Wales (6 sp), New Caledonia and Vanuatu (1 sp), and Papua New Guinea (2 sp). Some species are commonly named Blushwood, but not all and fruit from spring through to autumn. One species, Fontainea oraria, the coast Fontainea, is known only from 10 living plants growing on private property near Lennox Head in northern New South Wales. Its status is critically endangered. Locating the two most promising species Fontainea picrosperma/Hylandia dockrillii and Fontainea venosa should be relatively easy with Fontainea picrosperma/hylandia dockrillii being located in and around the Atherton Tablands near Cairns and Fontainea venosa being located in South East Queensland around the Gympie area. Exact habitat locations for Fontainea picrosperma/hylandia dockrillii can be found in the resources section following this article.
It should be noted that experimentation with any parts of these plants is potentially dangerous, although the researchers are adamant that the drug has potential to be used internally as well as the current external treatments, the necessary work is yet to be done. “The sting in the tail is that it has to be put on the outside of the body,” explains QIMR Berghofer director and CEO Frank Gannon. “It is highly toxic if it gets into the body unless it can be controlled”. Also there has been absolutely no study on what a raw plant extract would do, if anything at all and may be very dangerous if ingested considering the inflammatory response it triggers, which first led to its discovery.
In conclusion, these endangered miracle plants need us to protect them, spread them around and study them. We simply must not allow the only access to these plants to be through a big pharmaceutical company that cares only for profit, not people. The fact that these endangered plants have proven to be so effective and relatively safe, worries me greatly. We run the risk of having this amazing discovery being simply bought and shelved, as cures are not as profitable as “treatments”, such as the ineffective but lucrative chemotherapy “treatments” that slowly milk your wallet before killing you. We have pushed these plants to the brink of extinction through habitat encroachment, whilst the disease they cure is ravaging our population worldwide, maybe we don’t deserve such miracle plants such as the Blushwood shrubs, considering our treatment of the Earth and her bounty, but it is not too late to put people before profit.
If you are able to procure seed or live plants please feel free to contact Brett at email@example.com.
About the author: Brett Lothian is an Australian author, professional arborist, market gardener and ethnobotanist. He is the author of the Tricho Serious Ethnobotany blog and creator of the Trichocereus Cacti Appreciation group, the Peyote Appreciation group and the Ethnobotany Appreciation group on facebook.
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Have Victoria Gordon and Paul Reddell found a new weapon against cancer with blushwood? http://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/weekend-australian-magazine/have-victoria-gordon-and-paul-reddell-found-a-new-weapon-against-cancer-with-blushwood/story-e6frg8h6-1226877070142