Harnessing the power of the death cap mushroom

25 September 2018

Dr David Perrin and his teamWith funding from the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), Dr David Perrin and his team at the University of British Columbia have opened the door to harnessing a naturally-occurring, deadly mushroom toxin as a potential cancer-killing drug. Small, white and unassuming, death cap mushrooms are highly toxic and account for 90% of mushroom-related deaths worldwide. But the very poison that makes these mushrooms fatal for anyone who eats them can also be used to kill cancer cells.

Dr Perrin and his team have become the first in the world to create the potent mushroom toxin, called amanitin, in the lab. While amanitin has shown promise in cancer studies in the past, progress has been slowed by the dangerous and time-consuming process of harvesting the toxin from wild mushrooms and its liver-damaging side effects.

Dr Perrin is also building on his discovery to create new and safer versions of amanitin that can be targeted specifically to cancer cells to avoid the toxic side effects. This breakthrough will pave the way for large scale manufacturing of the toxin for research and clinical studies.

This research was funded by a CCS Innovation Grant.

“Without the CCS Innovation Grant, we wouldn’t have been able to do this. The grant allowed my lab to pursue a very high-risk project that has forged new collaborations and new technologies that wouldn’t have happened otherwise,” said Dr Perrin. “Thanks to the donors who made our Innovation Grant possible, we are working hard to translate our discoveries and take them to the clinic.”

You can help us continue funding ground-breaking research by making a donation at cancer.ca.