A protein found in the pupae and larvae of cabbage butterflies induces the destruction of cancer cells more effectively than common anticancer drugs, according to researchers at the National Cancer Center.

The research team, led by Keiji Wakabayashi, deputy director of the National Cancer Center Research Institute, plans to present the findings at a meeting of the Japanese Cancer Association opening Thursday in Nagoya.

In their study, the Wakabayashi team confirmed that the protein, which they named Pierisin-1, induces a process called apoptosis in cancer cells, a type of programmed cell death designed to remove harmful or unwanted cells from living organisms.

The researchers say they still need to develop ways to prevent the protein from adversely affecting healthy cells, but are hopeful the study may pave the way for research into new types of anticancer drugs.

The Wakabayashi team said even a small amount of Pierisin was effective in suppressing many types of cultivated cancer cells.

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