SEEDS from this plump red fruit could hold the key to solving one of the world’s most common and deadly diseases. The fruit of the Fontainea plant – only found on the Atherton Tableland and often feasted on by cassowaries and rainforest marsupials – is now growing in plantations to be cultivated into an anti-cancer drug for humans and animals. While the exact technique being performed inside QBiotics’ Yungaburra laboratory is shrouded in secrecy, scientists are confident their drug called EBC-46 will destroy cancerous tumours when human trials start in Brisbane next year. Yungaburra-based QBiotics CEO Dr Victoria Gordon said the plant behind the medical breakthrough was found by their EcoBiotics discovery team about seven years ago. “We create collection strategies for plants that we believe will have particular bioactivity,” she said. “We have a high success rate and a large discovery library with many bioactive plant extracts. “EBC-46 was selected from that group as meeting the requirements to potentially be developed into a successful anti-cancer pharmaceutical.” It is the first drug to be sourced from the Queensland tropical rainforest and developed into clinical trials. The almost seven-year journey from discovering the plant, extracting usable molecules from its seeds, developing the drug, and successfully treating a variety of animals with tumours  including Tasmanian devils  has been made possible by investors committing more than $16 million to the Queensland life sciences company. Those tiny molecules are also behind the company’s wound healing treatment called WH1 and the development of a veterinary oncology drug which is currently being used by an Atherton veterinarian. “WH1 (has) the potential to treat wounds created by necrotising bacteria, for example from spider bites and chronic wounds such as pressure sores, tropical ulcers, diabetes-related ulcers,” she said. Dr Gordon said treatments for chronic wounds were almost non-existent. Senior vet at Tableland Veterinary Services Justine Campbell has been using EBC-46 on animals for almost three years and said it was winning the fight against mast cell tumours and skin cancers. “I had a client ask us to look into it,” she said. “At first I was skeptical. I guess vets are a group of people who are skeptical about new drugs. There is always something coming on to the market and unless there is research behind it, we don’t want to use it.” But as more pets came into the surgery with cancerous tumours, Ms Campbell rang Qbiotics to discuss trialling the drug which could be injected directly into the tumour and used as a gel. “We thought we’d give it a go (because) with oncology, if you don’t treat them, they are not going to make it,” she said. “One patient was given three months to live and survived two and a half years after that time. “Since then we have treated in excess of 150 cases of cats, dogs, guinea pigs, a rat is on our books and even a goanna.” Ms Campbell said the drug was not only successful, but it could be administered while the animal was conscious meaning there was no need for anesthetic. “If we have this drug available (to all vets) we have a chance of stopping (cancer) in its tracks,” she said. “We’ve treated tumours between toes and the patient hasn’t lost their foot, which would have happened (previously).” Human trials, which will recruit people with particular tumours, are expected to start in six months. QBiotics is also working on another anti-cancer compound called EBC-23, which is derived from another rainforest plant and has shown promising activity against prostate and breast cancers.