Sunday, August 1, 1999 Published at 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Mussel offers cancer hope
Could waters around New Zealand help in the fight against cancer ?
Experts have identified a possible new weapon in the fight against cancer - a green-lipped mussel from the southern seas.
More than 100 cancer sufferers are to participate in human trials to discover the full scope of the marine extract, which it is hoped will be effective against prostate and breast cancers.
Researchers say that the trials may also be expanded to hospitals in Britain and Scandinavia, and to other forms of cancer.
Dr Henry Betts, principle research scientist in the Rheumatology Research Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide, was amazed to find that in test tube trials Lyprinol killed cancer cells in 24 hours.
He said: "There have been countless new drugs that seem to kill cancer cells in test tube, but fail in the human body.
"We had been working on Lyprinol for several years, assessing its efficacy for arthritis and asthma, not realising that the same metabolic pathways are involved in cancer."
If successful in human tests, the mussel oil extract will provide a natural alternative for cancer treatment without the side effects of normal drugs.
Professor Robert Borland, Lyprinol researcher added: "We are talking about a material which is natural which is not going to do any harm to an individual.
"What is more it is nutritionally beneficial."
Note of caution
The New Zealand mussel industry looks set to reap big benefits - of all the shell fish tested the green lipped mussel is the only variety that contains the cancer killing oil.
Mussel grower, Jim Broadbent said: "I really frankly don't know how we would grow enough mussels in New Zealand to meet the demand if this proves to be successful"
The New Zealand Cancer society is also warning cancer patients not to rely on the green lipped mussel to kill deadly cancer cells, until further tests are conducted.
Chief executive Jo Bransgrove said: "It is important to sound a note of caution to people because until it has been through its clinical trials it is unproven."