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Minnelide, a compound derived from Chinese herb, Leigongten, is promising for pancreatic cancer

Cancer has a severe impact on individuals and communities. Not only does it lead to disability and death, its treatment costs and associated loss of income can quickly undermine family finances. The most commonly diagnosed hepatobiliary cancers across the globe are hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer affects close to 250000 people worldwide. The incidence of pancreatic cancer correlates with increasing age with a peak incidence of the disease occurring in the 65–75 year age group. Untreated metastatic pancreatic cancer has a median survival of 3–5 months and 6–10 months for locally advanced disease. The majority of cases are diagnosed in the advanced stages, making curative therapy impossible and leading to poor prognosis and incidence equaling mortality. Though the incidence of pancreatic cancer is found to be higher in developed countries, the aggressive biology of the cancer, its high rate of recurrence and chemo-resistance make it a formidable disease in all parts of the globe.

The Thunder God vine [ (Tripterygium wilfordii), also known as lei gong teng, is native to China, Japan and Korea. Traditional Chinese medicine has used the vine for more than 2,000 years as a treatment for everything from fever to inflammation and autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

A chemical compound called triptolide is among the more than 100 bioactive ingredients derived from the Thunder God vine. Preclinical studies showed a pharmaceutical version of triptolide called Minnelide proved effective against pancreatic cancer cells, according to a study by Dr. Ashok K. Saluja, Professor and Vice-Chair, Department of Surgery, University of Minnesota and Chief Scientific Officer and Co-Founder of Minneamrita Therapeutics LLC, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved use of the compound Minnelide for a clinical trial of gastrointestinal cancer patients — including pancreatic cancer.

“With the responses seen in the Phase I trial with the IV formulation, we are hopeful that the improved and more convenient oral administration will demonstrate the same or improved clinical benefit,” said Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD, FACP, and the Virginia G. Piper Distinguished Chair for Innovative Cancer Research.

National Cancer Institute (NCI) has started the phase II trial since February, 2022.


1. Sulagna Banerjee and Ashok Saluja. Minnelide, a novel drug for pancreatic and liver cancer. Pancreatology. 2015 Jul; 15(0): S39–S43.,the%20different%20models%20as%20well.

2. First-in-Human Thunder God Vine Trial-Minnelide.

3. Oral Formulation of Minnelide is Dosed For the First Time in Patients with Advanced Cancer.

4. A Phase II, International Open Label Trial of Minnelide™ in Patients With Refractory Pancreatic Cancer (MinPAC).

5. Clinical trial evaluates the effect of Minnelide on advanced pancreatic cancer.

6. Phase II open label trial of minnelide™ in patients with chemotherapy refractory metastatic pancreatic cancer.

7. Superenhancer Inhibitor Minnelide in Advanced Refractory Adenosquamous Carcinoma of the Pancreas (ASCP).

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