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Cancer drugs may become cheaper after breakthrough

By  Liang Yiwen   (Shanghai Daily)

08:17, November 06, 2012

Cancer patients may see their medical costs cut as researchers in Shanghai have developed a new technology to improve the anti-cancer ingredients in vinca - a plant nicknamed "life flower."

The leaves of vinca plants contain alkaloid, which can be extracted to make an anti-cancer drug that is especially effective for lung, breast, ovary and testicular cancers.

However, the drug is very expensive because each plant contains very little alkaloid.

One kilogram of the pharmaceutical raw material costs up to 1 million yuan (US$160,061) and the drug is generally sold at 220 yuan per 10 micrograms.

It costs about 40,000 yuan to take the medicine for one year.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University scientists managed to double the amount of the effective alkaloids contained in the plant leaves by metabolic control technology, said Tang Kexuan, dean of the university's School of Agriculture and Biology and head of the research team.

Researchers spent eight years to cultivate new flowers with the advanced technology, he said.

The technology helps researchers grow a new type of vinca with double the amount of alkaloid in the leaves.

The cost of cancer drugs is expected to decrease at least 50 percent in the next three to five years, researchers said.

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