Compounds that induce apoptosis in premalignant or malignant cells generally don't prevent the genetic changes that lead to cancer. Now researchers at the University of Texas have described a compound that might do both.

Jordan Gutterman and university colleagues have focused on the natural chemotherapeutic properties of plants. Their weapons of choice are avicins, a group of triterpenoid saponins, which are extracted from acacia plants. Though similar to the saponins used as an adjuvant by Antigenics Inc. (AGEN, New York, N.Y.), avicins have structural differences.