A substance found in a plant that grows naturally in South America can inhibit the growth of cancer stems cells, according to new research.

A team from Sweden’s Lund University tested the sesquiterpene lactone damsin substance, found in the plant Ambrosia arborescens, on ‘cancer stem cells in three different breast cancer cell lines’. It discovered both the natural and synthetic versions to be effective in combatting the disease.

“Both the natural and the synthetic substances inhibit the growth and spread of cancer stem cells in breast cancer cell lines. This is the first time that it has been successfully proven by research,” explained Stina Oredsson, professor at Lund University.

It is a major breakthrough as cancer stem cells are difficult to treat with chemotherapy.

“Different cancer cells have different abilities to survive chemotherapy. Cancer stem cells can be considered the most dangerous type of cancer cells, as they appear to have an inherent resistance to the chemotherapeutic drugs used today. Our results can contribute to the development of new drugs against cancer stem cells but, unfortunately, it takes a long time to get from basic research to usable drugs,” Stina added.

The team’s research continues.