Support Provided ByLearn More
Body + BrainBody & Brain

Rare Australian Berries Might Contain Possible Cancer Treatment

Scientists have destroyed cancerous tumors using a drug developed from the seeds of a berry found in Australia's rainforest.

ByAllison EckNOVA NextNOVA Next
The fruit of a tree called Fontain's blushwood, found only in the Queensland's Atherton Tableland rainforest, stores a compound that could be helpful in treating cancer.

Scientists have destroyed cancerous tumors using a drug developed from the seeds of a berry found in the Australian rainforest.

Receive emails about upcoming NOVA programs and related content, as well as featured reporting about current events through a science lens.

The berry, the fruit of a tree called Fontain’s blushwood ( Fontainea picrosperma ), is found only in select locations in the rainforests that border the northeastern coast of Queensland. A company called Qbiotics isolated a compound from the seeds called EBC-46, which, when injected directly into melanoma models and other cancers in animals, eliminated most of the tumors.

Support Provided ByLearn More

Dr. Glen Boyle, being interviewed by Melissa Davey for The Guardian:

“In preclinical trials we injected it into our models and within five minutes, you see a purpling of the area that looks like a bruise,” Boyle, from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute said.

“About 24 hours later, the tumour area goes black, a couple of days later you see a scab, and at around the 1.5 week mark, the scab falls off, leaving clean skin with no tumour there. The speed certainly surprised me.”

In conjunction with Boyle and others from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, they’ve come to believe that the manufactured drug—developed by the pharmaceutical company QBiotics—kills tumors by cutting off their blood supply. It’s already been administered by veterinarians on 300 cases of cancer in dogs, cats, and horses. While successful in treating primary sites, EBC-46 does not appear to work on metastatic tumors, which could limit its use.

While human trials have not yet begun, successful results could position the drug as an alternative to chemotherapy, an appealing prospect for patients who are too weak for traditional chemo drugs, such as the elderly.