Triptolide, an active constituent extracted from Tripterygium wilfordii Hook (Thunder God Vine), a traditional Chinese herb used since centuries ago as part of multiple Chinese traditional herbal remedies, mainly autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, has shown to be effective on the treatment of multiple cancer types. Among some of its beneficial properties we can mention its anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressant and anti-tumor characteristics. Chinese name: 雷公藤. Image: 雷公藤 by 天問 小窩 under Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA 2.0).
But Tripterygium wilfordii hook is not new for us, we talked about it when we were analysing the beneficial effects of Celastrol, another active constituent found in this traditional Chinese herb, able to induce proteasomal activity and induction of apoptosis in leukemia cancer cells and also effective for its anti-cancer properties for the treatment of other types of tumors as the colon, squamous cell and pancreatic cancers . With the diterpenoid epoxide triptolide, the quinone triterpene celastrol is, out of the more than hundred active constituents found in this herb, the most important active constituent found in Tripterygium wilfordii hook.
Other beneficial effects of Triptolide include its potential use for the treatment of lymphocytic leukemia cell lines, where it showed that it was able to potently inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in T-cell lymphocytic leukemia cell lines . Triptolide was additionally able to activate the p53 pathway to trigger apoptosis in human breast cancer cell lines, or even promote cancer cell-reactive immune responses .
Finally, another illness for which no cure has been yet identified apart from transplantation or suitable drug for its treatment, Policystic kidney disease (PKD), seems to have found a possible option in Triptolide, or at least that's what it is believed by a research team lead by biochemist Craig Crews from Yale University . The Department of Internal Medicine from the University of Texas seems to be also investigating over the same line .
The downside, its price. The pharmaceutical industry seems to know that an increased interest on this new chemical could probably bring them some benefits and prices over 300 USD per 5mg are easily found when searching for it.
 Triptolide inhibits the proliferation of cells from lymphocytic leukemic cell lines in association with downregulation of NF-κB activity and miR-16-1*.
Meng HT, Zhu L, Ni WM, You LS, Jin J, Qian WB.
Institute of Hematology, the First Affiliated Hospital, College of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.
 Does triptolide induce lysosomal-mediated apoptosis in human breast cancer cells?
Messina ME Jr, Halaby R.
Montclair State University, Department of Biology and Molecular Biology, 1 Normal Avenue, Montclair, NJ 07043, United States
Celastrol, a triterpene extracted from the Chinese "Thunder of God Vine," is a potent proteasome inhibitor and suppresses human prostate cancer growth in nude mice.
Yang H, Chen D, Cui QC, Yuan X, Dou QP.
The Prevention Program, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, and Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA
 Celastrol suppresses invasion of colon and pancreatic cancer cells through the downregulation of expression of CXCR4 chemokine receptor.
Yadav VR, Sung B, Prasad S, Kannappan R, Cho SG, Liu M, Chaturvedi MM, Aggarwal BB.
Cytokine Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, 77030, USA.
 Effects of triptolide from Tripterygium wilfordii on ERalpha and p53 expression in two human breast cancer cell lines.
Liu J, Jiang Z, Xiao J, Zhang Y, Lin S, Duan W, Yao J, Liu C, Huang X, Wang T, Liang Z, Wang R, Zhang S, Zhang L.
National Center of Drug Screening, China Pharmaceutical University, 1 Shennong Road, Nanjing 210038, China.
 Triptolide inhibits interferon-gamma-induced programmed death-1-ligand 1 surface expression in breast cancer cells.
Liang M, Fu J.
Department of Biochemistry, Center for Biomedical Research, University of Texas Health Center at Tyler, Tyler, TX 75708, USA.
 Yale University (2007, March 12). Triptolide: A Potential Drug For Polycystic Kidney Disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 27, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2007/03/070305202704.htm
 Advances in the pathogenesis and treatment of polycystic kidney disease.
Patel V, Chowdhury R, Igarashi P.
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.
 The main anticancer bullets of the chinese medicinal herb, thunder god vine.
Liu Z, Ma L, Zhou GB.
Division of Molecular Carcinogenesis and Targeted Therapy for Cancer, State Key Laboratory of Biomembrane and Membrane Biotechnology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China