Researchers find garden shrub could be key to battling eye cancer

Lynne Adkins
January 13, 2019 - 4:00 am
Christmas Berry Plant

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Researchers are turning to Mother Nature to help in the battle against eye cancer. 

Patients with uveal melanoma, the most common eye cancer in adults, may one day be treated with a compound from a common shrub found in the garden. 

"It's a Christmas berry, so one could be growing in your yard," said Dr. Jeffrey Benovic, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Thomas Jefferson University. "I think the berries are poisonous, but I think the initial study showed that the leaves of the Christmas berry plant were where the compound was extracted. We were able to extract it also from the roots of the plant.

Uveal melanoma effects approximately 2,000 people per year in the United States. Current treatment includes radiation or surgery. Unfortunately, in half of the cases the disease spreads to other parts of the body. 

"Unfortunately, the prognosis for these patients is poor," Benovic said, "because there's no good treatment."

But he says early studies show the compound extracted from the Christmas berry stops the cancer's growth.

More work will now be done with mice before the testing moves on to humans.