National Cancer Institute awards $3 million grant to fund collaborative cancer research at UH Mānoa and UH Hilo

Researchers from the UH Cancer Center at UH Mānoa and the College of Pharmacy at UH Hilo are studying how ironweed plant extract can be used to treat breast and brain cancers.

James Turkson holds ironweed plant extract. in lab setting.
James Turkson holds ironweed plant extract.

A year ago, James Turkson, director of the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center’s Cancer Biology Program (UH Mānoa), along with collaborators Leng Chee Chang, Dianqing Sun and Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit at the UH Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, published a study showing that the natural compounds from the ironweed plant were effective in killing breast cancer and brain tumor cells and blocked the development and growth of these cancers in the laboratory.

Leng Chee Chang
Leng Chee Chang

Now, in recognition of these preliminary findings, the National Cancer Institute has awarded a five-year $3 million grant for the researchers to deepen their study into how natural compounds in ironweed plant extract can be used to treat breast and brain cancers.

Dianqing Sun
Dianqing Sun

“It would be life changing for cancer patients if ironweed extract could help fight aggressive types of breast and brain cancers,” says Turkson. “Since the compounds are found in the plant, they are less toxic than traditional forms of treatment such as chemotherapy. This gives cancer patients a better quality of life when developed as drugs.”

Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit
Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit

Glioblastoma is an aggressive brain cancer that currently has no cure, explains Turkson. In addition, the types of breast cancers the researchers are targeting are some of the most life-threatening breast cancers with few successful treatments.

-Learn more, UH Mānoa media release.