An approach to the treatment of advanced
or aggressive malignancies in which the malignant cells are treated so that
they can resume the process of maturation and differentiation into mature cells.
Differentiation therapy is based on the concept that cancer cells are normal
cells that have been arrested at an immature or less differentiated state, lack
the ability to control their own growth, and so multiply at an abnormally fast
rate. Differentiation therapy aims to force the cancer cell to resume the process
of maturation. Although differentiation therapy does not destroy the cancer
cells, it restrains their growth and allows the application of more conventional
therapies (such as chemotherapy) to eradicate the malignant cells. Differentiation
agents tend to have less toxicity than conventional cancer treatments. An outstanding example of this concept in action is the product called Curaderm which cures skin cancers by this very mechanism. Not surpisingly, the active ingredient is derived from nature. It is present in Devil’s apple and in eggplant. The active compounds are the solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides (solosonine and solamargine).