The active ingredient artemisinin is a secondary plant substance found in the leaves and flowers of the annual wormwood (Artemisia annua). Artemisinin is used worldwide to treat malaria. Chinese pharmacologist Youyou Tu found that artemisinin inhibits the growth of the plasmodia that causes malaria. She was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for her research.
Research over the last few decades has shown that artemisinin can also be effective in a number of cancers, especially in cancer of the abdomen (ovaries, uterus, prostate). Certain cell organelles, the so-called lysosomes, and the lysosomal iron they contain play a central role in this. Lysosomes are normally responsible for the breakdown of cellular components that the cell no longer needs. The iron reacts with artesunate in the lysosomes. This produces free oxygen radicals, among other things. The radicals are extremely reactive and oxidize certain components of the lysosomes. These changes trigger a signalling cascade that triggers programmed cell death in the mitochondria.
Artesunate can block the process of autophagy. The process of autophagy (i.e. the decomposition of cell components) supports the survival of cancer cells by enabling them to introduce cell components that are no longer needed into the lysosomes and recycle them there. Artesunate can also prevent cancer cells from multiplying further.
In addition to its excellent effectiveness, artesiminin has many advantages. It is selective; it is toxic to cancer cells, but it has almost no effect on normal cells. Cancer cells that are resistant to cytostatic drugs also react or are killed.
Our doctors and therapists at the Hyperthermia Centre Hannover use artemisinin as a supplement in biological cancer therapy. Three to six milligrams of artemisinin per kilogram body weight are administered to the patient via an infusion. The treatment is integrated into a unique therapy tailored to the individual patient.