Clinical trails approved to check efficacy of Korean blackberry for cancer treatment

Lim Chang-won Reporter() | Posted : June 23, 2021, 15:24 | Updated : June 23, 2021, 15:24

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SEOUL -- An Oriental medicine research center in South Korea has won state approval to go ahead with clinical trials to demonstrate the efficacy of KIOM-ICI-1, a drug candidate for immuno-cancer treatment using substances extracted from rubus coreanus, a species of raspberry native to East Asian countries.

Rubus coreanus, or known as Korean blackberry, produces edible berries that are fermented into fruit wine which has been taken to prevent problems associated with disturbed liver and kidney functions.

With approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, the state-funded Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine (KIOM) will carry out a second-stage clinical test for KIOM-ICI-1. This is the first case in which South Korea has approved clinical trials to discover the efficacy of an immune checkpoint inhibitor, based on oriental medicine materials.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a type of cancer immunotherapy that blocks immune checkpoint proteins from binding with partner proteins. They are used as anti-cancer drugs, but new materials are still needed to supplement them due to a low response rate and allergic reactions.

The institute said its research team used immature raspberry fruits. "This anti-cancer immunotherapy candidate material is significant because it is developed based on herbal medicines that have proven safety," Chung Hwan-suck, a senior KIOM researcher, said, vowing to develop KIOM-ICI-1 as the first oriental medicine-based checkpoint inhibitor.

Chung's team would conduct clinical trials for 40 colorectal cancer patients who have failed surgery, anti-cancer drugs and radiation treatment. The institute said KIOM-ICI-1 was found to have inhibited the size of tumors by more than 50 percent in a study on mouse models which were implanted with tumor cells and medicated for 21 days.

Clinical trials will be conducted on combination treatment with existing cytotoxic anticancer drugs. "The results scientifically demonstrated the strengths of oriental medicine in improving body balance and immunity," said KIOM president Lee Jin-yong.

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