UWindsor biochemistry researcher Siyaram Pandey has the official go-ahead to test dandelion root extract as a treatment for patients with terminal cancer. Dr. Pandey and his student researchers have successfully shown in the lab how the extract causes cancer cells to go through apoptosis, or cell suicide, while leaving healthy cells alone.
“This is fantastic news,” says Pandey. “We’ve been waiting for this announcement for a long time and now it is real.”
Tuesday’s announcement has special meaning for a project dedicated to the memory of Kevin Couvillon, who lost a three-year battle with acute myeloid leukemia in November 2010. The following year Couvillon’s parents, Dave and Donna Couvillon, made a substantial contribution to Dr. Pandey’s research on natural extracts as possible cancer treatments.
Sunday, February 15, would have been Kevin’s 31st birthday. At this time each year the research team gathers to give a progress report to the Couvillons as well as to other financial contributors and members of the community. Dave Couvillon says this year’s event was especially encouraging with the announcement that the clinical trial received permission to proceed from Health Canada.
“We strongly feel that Kevin would want us to continue to fight against cancer so that others would be spared such a cruel fate,” says Donna Couvillon. “Natural medicine allows one’s own immune system to be part of healing process and we wholeheartedly support this endeavour and the excellent research done by this team.”
The dandelion root formula in use in the Pandey lab is about five times more concentrated than the extract that can be purchased over the counter and has been proven to kill leukemia, melanoma and pancreatic cancer cells in lab mice.
In 2012, Caroline Hamm, an oncologist at the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre, made the application to Health Canada to proceed with human clinical trials.
Pandey says the trial is now open for referrals with room for 30 patients who have exhausted all other cancer treatments. He says he is grateful for financial support from the Knights of Columbus Council 9671; Seeds4Hope; India Canada Association of Windsor; Pajama Angels and Joseph Szecsei. The project has also received government funding from Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
“This is huge, such a big accomplishment,” says Dave Couvillon. “To see it happening is the first step and now we need to keep our fingers crossed that they get the right kind of results and we’re confident they will.”