Traditional herbal medicine kills pancreatic cancer cells, Jefferson researchers report
(PHILADELPHIA) An herb used in traditional medicine by many Middle Eastern countries may help in the fight against pancreatic cancer, one of the most difficult cancers to treat. Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer at Jefferson in Philadelphia have found that thymoquinone, an extract of nigella sativa seed oil, blocked pancreatic cancer cell growth and killed the cells by enhancing the process of programmed cell death. While the studies are in the early stages, the findings suggest that thymoquinone could eventually have some use as a preventative strategy in patients who have gone through surgery and chemotherapy or in individuals who are at a high risk of developing cancer.
According to Hwyda Arafat, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, nigella sativa helps treat a broad array of diseases, including some immune and inflammatory disorders. Previous studies also have shown anticancer activity in prostate and colon cancers, as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Using a human pancreatic cancer cell line, she and her team found that adding thymoquinone killed approximately 80 percent of the cancer cells. They demonstrated that thymoquinone triggered programmed cell death in the cells, and that a number of important genes, including p53, Bax, bcl-2 and p21, were affected. The researchers found that expression of p53, a tumor suppressor gene, and Bax, a gene that promotes programmed cell death, was increased, while bcl-2, which blocks such cell death, was decreased. The p21 gene, which is involved in the regulation of different phases of the cell cycle, was substantially increased. She presents her findings May 18 at the Digestive Disease Week in San Diego.
Dr. Arafat and her co-workers also found that thymoquinone caused “epigenetic” changes in pancreatic cancer cells, modifying the cells’ DNA. She explains that these changes involve adding acetyl groups to the DNA structure, specifically to blocks of proteins called histones. This “acetylation” process can be important for genes to be read and translated into proteins. In this case, it could involve the genes that are key to initiating programmed cell death.
“We looked at the status of the histones and found surprisingly that thymoquinone increased the acetylation process,” Dr. Arafat says. “We never anticipated that.”
At the same time, adding thymoquinone to pancreatic cancer cells reduced the production and activity of enzymes called histone deacetylases (HDACs), which remove the acetyl groups from the histone proteins, halting the gene transcription process. Dr. Arafat notes that HDAC inhibitors are a “hot” new class of drugs that interfere with the function of histone deacetylases, and is being studied as a treatment for cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Finding that thymoquinone functions as an HDAC inhibitor, she says, “was very remarkable and really exciting.”
Pancreatic cancer, the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in this country, takes some 34,000 lives a year. The disease frequently is detected after it has spread and only 4 percent of individuals with pancreatic cancer live for five years after diagnosis.
Source: Thomas Jefferson University
- An herbal extract inhibits the development of pancreatic cancerSun, 19 Apr 2009, 10:29:07 EDT
- Thymoquinone induced oxidative stress targets highly aggressive prostate cancersThu, 3 Jun 2010, 11:05:04 EDT
- Jefferson scientists deliver toxic genes to effectively kill pancreatic cancer cellsTue, 23 Sep 2008, 14:29:41 EDT
- A promising approach in the prevention and treatment of pancreatic cancerThu, 25 Sep 2008, 9:43:12 EDT
- New drug achieves pancreatic cancer tumor remission and prevents recurrenceSun, 19 Apr 2009, 15:29:49 EDT
Articles on the same topic
- How are pancreatic stellate cells activated?Tue, 20 May 2008, 12:07:27 EDT
- New Research Improves Early Detection And Survival For Pancreatic Cancerfrom Science DailyWed, 21 May 2008, 14:21:23 EDT
- Thymoquinone may help in the fight against pancreatic cancerfrom Science CentricWed, 21 May 2008, 9:21:28 EDT
- Traditional herbal medicine kills pancreatic cancer cells, Jefferson researchers reportfrom Biology News NetMon, 19 May 2008, 17:49:12 EDT
- Herbal Medicine Gets A Look In Pancreatic Cancer Treatmentfrom Scientific BloggingMon, 19 May 2008, 12:14:20 EDT
- Thymoquinone may help in the fight against pancreatic cancerfrom Science CentricMon, 19 May 2008, 12:00:31 EDT
- Traditional herbal medicine kills pancreatic cancer cells, researchers reportfrom PhysorgMon, 19 May 2008, 10:21:29 EDT
- Traditional Herbal Medicine Kills Pancreatic Cancer Cells, Researchers Reportfrom Science DailyMon, 19 May 2008, 10:14:20 EDT
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Allosaurus fed more like a falcon than a crocodile, new study finds
- Invasive crazy ants are displacing fire ants in areas throughout southeastern US
- Beautiful 'flowers' self-assemble in a beaker
- Scientific insurgents say 'Journal Impact Factors' distort science
- GPS solution provides 3-minute tsunami alerts