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Cancer stem cells targeted drug leads from Sri Lankan endemic plants for breast cancer

NRC Grant:  14-067

Dr. S. R. Samarakoon
Institute of Biochemistry Molecular Biology and Biotechnology
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Area of Research:Molecular Biology



 a) Screening of endemic medicinal plants (about 10 plants) for cancer stem cell targeted anti cancer properties

b) Isolation of active compounds by activity guided fractionation of plant extracts from one selected plant identified in objective 1 having anti CSC properties.

c) Structure elucidation of active compound by spectroscopic analysis.

d) Further evaluation of anti-CSC properties of isolated compounds on isolated CSCs from selected cancer patients


 Breast cancer is the most common female cancer and cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the world and in Sri Lanka, more than 1000 cases are diagnosed each year. Sri Lankan government has to spend a considerable funds for treatment. Although the turnover of global pharmaceutical industry is estimated to be about $ 350-400 billion per annum, Sri Lanka currently does not contribute to the drug discovery industry. Research focusing on identifying anti cancer drug leads from our endemic medicinal plants is a timely need. Although the cancer stem cells have a major role to promote the re-growth of tumor, CSCs targeted anti-cancer drug screening or discovery has not yet commenced in Sri Lanka.  For the first time in Sri Lanka, we plan to screen and isolate CSC targeted anti-cancer compounds from selected endemic plants with the long term goal of development of CSC targeted anti cancer drug/s which can be acceptable globally. Identification of new anti-cancer drug leads with the potential for developing into therapeutic use will help to attract foreign investors in pharmaceutical industry and help to build partnership with the industry. The outcome of this project will provide scientific basis for traditional medicine and medicinal plants and hence value addition to the same. This type of advancement of scientific research will be more beneficial to attract young generation to do their PhD in Sri Lanka and minimize brain darn. Use of funding obtained to train a postgraduate student would also contribute to capacity development in Sri Lanka.