Liquorice extract could be used in new liver cancer drugs

In collaboration with the Press Association

Extracts of liquorice could prove useful add-ons to chemotherapy drugs for liver cancer, say researchers in China.

The extracts naturally accumulate in liver cells, so scientists think they could be used to target drugs to the organ to treat cancers, potentially allowing higher doses and reducing side effects.

The research centres on two chemicals in root liquorice - glycyrrhetinic acid and glycyrrhizic acid.

Early stage testing on mice has proved promising and larger scale clinical trials are now being developed.

"Although still at an early stage, this research is interesting," said Joseph Querido, cancer information officer at Cancer Research UK.

"Targeted drug delivery is an important area of cancer research because it offers many patient benefits, including fewer side effects and more effective treatment.

"The approach described in the paper has yet to be tested in humans, so we look forward to hearing more about the planned clinical trials."

An effective treatment would be significant, as liver cancer is highly resistant to chemotherapy.

In the UK, 2,800 people are diagnosed with liver cancer, and 2,700 people die from the disease each year.

The research was carried out by scientist Zhi Yuan and a team at Nankai University in China, and is published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

Find out more about liver cancer