EBC-46 – A miraculous drug that kills cancer in minutes

New experimental cancer drug of natural origins may revolutionize the way many cancers are treated

Story Highlights
  • EBC-46 also called tigilanol tiglate had been extracted from Blushwood berries.
  • Blushwood berries grow on the tree that is native to Queensland, Australia.
  • In early studies, it has been able to cure various cancers with minimal side effects.
  • Australian scientists are already carrying out clinical trials in humans.
  • Initial results of trial on various skin cancers are encouraging, as EBC-46 successfully destroyed the tumors.
Rainforests have provided us with many lifesaving medications from the treatment of malaria to drugs used in relieving severe pains. EBC-46/ Tigilanol tiglate is an anti-cancer drug under investigation; it is an active compound of the extract of berries that grow on Blushwood trees in rainforests in Queensland, Australia. As with most rainforest trees, Blushwood is very choosy and grows in a limited territory.

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History of this experimental anticancer medication is not very old. In the early 2000s, ecologists noticed that rats of marsupial species that feed on various tropical fruits and berries avoided eating the Blushwood berry, something that looked quite odd to the ecologists. Blushwood berries were known not to be acutely toxic. Thus researchers thought that it must have something that expels marsupials. Samples were sent to the lab in Sidney that led to the discovery of EBC-46. Today, Dr. Glenn Boyle from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane is the leading investigator. And a company called Qbiotic is the one that is actively involved in ensuring that this molecule becomes available for treatment at the earliest. 1

You can be a victim of cancer, or a survivor of cancer. It’s a mindset.

~ Dave Pelzer

How does it work?

There are various ways in which EBC-6 can destroy cancer cells with great effectiveness. Firstly, it is considered to be directly toxic to the cancer cells, and secondly, it damages the supplying blood vessels of the tumor and thus cutting nutrients and oxygen supply leading to the death of cancer cells. Finally, activation of immunity helps to clear away the debris left over by the action of the drug. From a pharmacological point of view, it targets the so-called Protein Kinase C (PKC), which when inhibited, stops the production of vital proteins by tumor cells leading to their death. Chemically EBC-46 is diterpene ester. 2

What has really amazed researchers, is the swiftness of action, without severe side effects, compound EBC-46 starts acting on the tumor within minutes. It leads to the full destruction of cancer within 5-7 days. Researchers have been amazed by the speed with which EBC-16 destroys tumor cells.

What do lab and clinical investigations show?

EBC-46 has been under testing for several years and has gone through lots of investigations in the labs, on living cells, and animals, while human trials of the agent are in progress. One of the most common methods used in the early testing of the anti-cancer drugs is called intra-lesional chemotherapy. It is a technique of directly injecting the tumor with the agent under investigation. It helps to achieve the higher local concentration of the agent being testing, without the risk of high systemic side effects. Earlier studies of EBC-46 were done in either cells taken from humans or in animal models. In all the models EBC-6 injection led to the quick influx of blood and inflammatory compounds, followed by the death and removal of tumor cells.

Mode of action of EBC-46 differed from the other similar compound called phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA). Although EBC-46 was less effective in killing tumor cells in vitro as compared to PMA, but it performed much better than PMA in vivo. This finding is vital from the point of view that PMA has failed in human trials due to toxicity. Because of a different mode of action EBC-46 seems less toxic and more efficient in curing tumors in vivo. When injected into the tumor of mice, EBC-46 did not spread much to the other parts of the body. It was also noticed that it caused the much higher level of local inflammation in and around the tumor as compared to healthy skin, thus showing that it was selectively toxic to cancer. In pre-clinical testing EBC-46 disrupted the blood supply of tumor, caused the death of tumor cells, leading to the cure. 3 4

Once the molecule EBC-46 has shown its effectiveness in treating cancers in the laboratory conditions both in vitro and in vivo, It was found to be fit for the initiation of further investigations on animals and humans. At present drug is going through a trial for veterinary and human use.

For human use, the so-called phase one study was initiated in the year 2014. This trial involves giving an intra-lesional injection of EBC-46 to those suffering from cutaneous (skin) or subcutaneous (just below the skin) cancers, but have failed to get an effect from other chemotherapeutic drugs. If the drug is found to be helpful and safe, the treatment would be continued in the carefully selected patients. Being a phase one trial, the primary objective is to find out the safety and tolerability of the drug compound. Enrolling patients in this trial stopped in 2015. It was a multi-central trial, carried out in various hospitals in Australia and New Zealand. Initially, EBC-46 was given to the patients having squamous cell carcinoma (of skin, head, and neck), skin cancer (malignant melanoma), skin metastasis of other types of cancers. 5 6

Initial results from these human and veterinary trials are already emerging, and they look very promising. There is a high probability that another phase of trials would be started soon, and many people with refractory cancer may get an opportunity to participate in the trial.

In what kind of cancers, it may help?

Initial clinical trials are focused on curing skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma), sub-cutaneous metastasis of various tumors. If found to be safe and effective, in future it could also be used to treat breast cancer, prostate cancer, and many other types of cancers.

When will EBC-46 be available for cancer treatment?

Before any drug is approved by FDA or another competent body for use in humans, it has to go through many steps so that to prove the safety and effectiveness. Drug discovery is the earliest phase when the molecule is tested in the lab for essential characteristics, after that it goes through preclinical research, which is quite often done in animals. If the drug is proven safe and effective in animals, testing in humans is started, and it is a three-phase process. The first phase trial is for demonstrating safety and tolerability in humans, second phase trial is for determining both the efficacy and safety, while the third phase is a large-scale trial for testing effectiveness along with adverse effect monitoring. Each of the phases takes few years to complete. 7

Considering that EBC-46 has almost finished the phase 1 trial, if all goes well, it can complete next two phases within five years, and would be permitted for use in hospitals.

Will eating the berry (used to create EBC-46) help in curing cancer?

That’s a million-dollar question. However, researchers are asking people to leave the science up to them. In fact, due to fear that people may grow and start eating berries of the Blushwood plant for curing cancer at home, many nurseries in Australia have been even told to stop selling these plants. Will eating the berry help or not is quite difficult to say. One has to understand that Blushwood berry has no history of usage in any traditional medicine or consumption by humans for health benefit, unlike some of the plant-based products that have been used by indigenous people.

What researchers are testing, is the one specific compound extracted from the berry, thus even if this extract is found to be safe enough in humans for medical use, there would still be need to consume whole lots of berries to gain any effect, and that may be dangerous for health. Further, present clinical trials are being done by injecting the extract directly into skin or subcutaneous tumor, but it is not being tested orally for treatment of other cancers and their metastasis.

In conclusion, we can say that although the initial trials are promising but it is quite an early stage, and EBC-46 still has to prove its safety and usefulness in more extensive studies in the humans. Quite often promised drugs do not make to the market due to unforeseen side effects, or medication does not work well enough in humans. Further, it must be noticed that EBC-46 acts on the Protein Kinase C (PKC), and many drugs targeting this protein (belonging to group phorbol esters-PMA) have failed in human tests due to a high level of toxicity. 8 However EBC-46 is chemically and structurally quite different from agents tested earlier, but still given the doubtful history of some earlier drugs of similar nature, it is yet to be seen that how it differs in humans in term of safety and efficacy. 9 Thus it is always advisable to wait and see. Finally, it must also be understood that researchers are still not testing this compound in oral form. What they are checking is the injection of compound given directly into the tumor, which is a much safer approach.

  1. Graham K. North Queensland Rainforest is home to cancer-fighting berry Digital Journal Accessed December 19, 2017.

  2. Hannah E. Berries Found In Australia Could Cure Cancer. Science World Report Accessed December 19, 2017.

  3. Boyle GM, D’Souza MMA, Pierce CJ, et al. Intra-Lesional Injection of the Novel PKC Activator EBC-46 Rapidly Ablates Tumors in Mouse Models. PLOS ONE. 2014;9(10):e108887. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0108887.

  4. Cullen J, Boyle G, D’Souza M, et al. Investigating a naturally occurring small molecule, EBC-46, as an immunotherapeutic agent to help treat cancer. Eur J Cancer 2016;69:S153. doi:10.1016/S0959-8049(16)33055-6.

  5. Schaar D, Goodell L, Aisner J, et al. A phase I clinical trial of 12- O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate for patients with relapsed/refractory malignancies. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2006;57(6):789-795. doi:10.1007/s00280-005-0125-1.

  6. Phase I Dose-Escalation Extension Study to Determine the Safety and Tolerability of Intratumoural Injection(s) of EBC-46. ANZCTR Accessed December 19, 2017.

  7. The Drug Development Process. US FDA Accessed December 19, 2017.

  8. Schaar D, Goodell L, Aisner J, et al. A phase I clinical trial of 12- O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate for patients with relapsed/refractory malignancies. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2006;57(6):789-795. doi:10.1007/s00280-005-0125-1.

  9. New cancer drug promising, but has a long way to go. SITN-Harvard University Accessed December 19, 2017.

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