Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., and millions of novel cancer cases are being diagnosed each year. While chemotherapy and ionizing radiation are effective treatments against these malignant tumors, the adverse effects that accompany such treatments are devastating. In order to find alternative treatment methods with less side effects, we turn to Eastern herbal medicine. Recent scientific research has found that Tripterygium wilfordii, an herbal medicine traditionally used to treat inflammation in China, contains compounds (triptolide and celastrol) that prevent the growth of solid tumors, induce apoptosis, and prevent metastasis of developed tumors. Investigations on these compounds on various cancer cells lines (in vitro and in vivo) have revealed insight into their mechanism, mode of action, and toxicity. In order to circumvent the potentially fatal side effects of triptolide and celastrol, it was proposed that roots of T. wilfordii, from which the compounds are extracted, be used as a treatment for cancer. Methods for testing the efficacy and toxicity of the roots on the different cell lines previously studied are outlined in this paper. If the results from the proposed experiment conflict with expectation, then future studies on combination drugs using triptolide and celastrol with other non-bioactive compounds within the roots should be done to develop new anti-cancer drugs with low toxicity.
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