Natural Products Toxicology

Section Lead: Dr Kenny Ritchie


In investigating natural products and their toxicity, we are particularly interested in their ability to cause toxicity to cancer cells in an effort to identify new potential cancer chemotherapeutic leads. Many modern-day cancer drugs are actually derived from natural products and our research within the toxicology section of the CNPD is focused on growing this number. We have a large selection of cancer cell lines which we can test natural products against in vitro to investigate if they cause them to die (the ultimate end-point of toxicity). Following the identification of toxicity, we also use a variety of molecular techniques to elucidate the cellular mechanisms behind the toxicity. 

Consistent with our overarching research approach being focused on cancer, we also devote a great deal of our time to preventing cancer in the form of cancer chemoprevention.  This is based on the theory that it is better to stop the cancer from occurring in the first place than it is to treat it.  We are therefore particularly interested in identifying novel phytochemicals to modulate the response of a transcription factor named Nrf2, which has the capacity to switch on many genes involved in the prevention of genotoxicity (toxicity to DNA).  The prevention of DNA damage is the key to preventing cancer initiation.