Dr Alessandra Devoto, from Royal Holloway University, found the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, when treated with jasmine, kills breast cancer cells but leaves healthy tissue alone.
A roadside weed with white flowers which was thought to be boring and medically useless is able to kill breast cancer cells while leaving normal cells untouched.
Thale cress, also known by its scientific name Arabidopsis thaliana, is an unassuming member of the cabbage family that grows to around eight inches tall.
Experiments in a lab found its leaves, when treated with a plant hormone found in jasmine, successfully killed the cancer.
The exact way it does this is unknown, but the study also found that while killing the dangerous cancerous cells, healthy tissues are left untouched.
Professor Alessandra Devoto, the biologist leading the project, is hopeful this could lead to better chemotherapy treatments with fewer side effects.
Breast cancer directly affects one in eight women in the UK, most over the age of 50.
‘The plant is very much like the ‘Cinderella’ of the medicinal plant world – no one thought it was so special, but it has shown its true colours via our research,’ Professor Devoto said.