Common weed may help fight cancer, KU researchers think

Some say the wild tomatillo is just a weed. But to University of Kansas this common North American plant might be the key to a new line of cancer-fighting treatments.

The three KU researchers, scientists Barbara Timmermann, Kelly Kindscher and Mark Cohen, have discovered 14 compounds in the wild tomatillo that are showing significant anti-cancer properties in preclinical testing. The new compounds, known as withanolides, are already showing promise in combating a number of cancers and tumors — without any noticeable side effects or toxicity.

Timmermann and her colleagues describe the new withanolides in the November 2011 edition of the Journal of Natural Products.

The wild tomatillo, whose formal scientific name is Physalis longifolia, is common in the Plains states and throughout North America.