Ginger inhibits overian cancer cell growth

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January 2, 2008  
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CM NEWS – Ginger inhibits growth and modulates secretion of angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells, according to a recent study published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.


Ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc) is a natural dietary component with antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties. The ginger component — gingerol has been shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects through mediation of NF-KB. NF-KB can be constitutively activated in epithelial ovarian cancer cells and may contribute towards increased transcription and translation of angiogenic factors.

For more information about ginger’s ability in boosting the immune system, please see a previous CM NEWS report.

What is NF-?B? NF-?B (nuclear factor-kappa B) is a protein complex which is a transcription factor. NF-?B is found in almost all animal cell types and is involved in cellular responses to stimuli such as stress, cytokines, free radicals, ultraviolet irradiation, oxidized LDL, and bacterial or viral antigens.[2] NF-?B plays a key role in regulating the immune response to infection. Consistent with this role, incorrect regulation of NF-?B has been linked to cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, septic shock, viral infection and improper immune development. NF-?B has also been implicated in processes of synaptic plasticity and memory.

What is angiogenesis? Angiogenesis is a physiological process involving the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels. Though there has been some debate over this, vasculogenesis is the term used for spontaneous blood-vessel formation, and intussusception is the term for new blood vessel formation by splitting off existing ones.

Angiogenesis is a normal process in growth and development, as well as in wound healing. However, this is also a fundamental step in the transition of tumours from a dormant state to a malignant state.

According to the researchers, ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecologic malignancy in the United States and represents the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women. Key goals in the management of this disease are prevention, early detection, and prolongation of disease free intervals and overall survival upon development of the disease. Most primary ovarian cancers arise from malignant transformation of the surface epithelium.

Recent studies have shown that ginger root and its main poly-phenolic constituents (gingerols and zerumbone) have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic activity. In particular, ginger root and its constituents can inhibit NF-kB activation induced by a variety of agents, and has been shown to down regulate NF-kB regulated gene products involved in cellular proliferation and angiogenesis, including IL-8, and VEGF. These factors have also been shown to promote tumour cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and affect apoptotic response in ovarian cancers.

“Dietary prevalence of foods such as ginger, garlic, soy, curcumin, chilies and green tea are thought to contribute to the decreased incidence of colon, gastrointestinal, prostate, breast and other cancers in South East Asian countries,” the researchers stated. “Accumulating evidence suggests that many dietary factors may be used alone or in combination with traditional chemotherapeutic agents to prevent or treat cancer. The potential advantage of many natural or dietary compounds seems to focus on their potent anticancer activity combined with low toxicity and very few adverse side effects.”

In the present study, the researchers tested the effect of ginger on tumour cell growth and modulation of angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells in vitro. Activation of NF-KB and and production of VEGF and cytokin IL-8 was determined in the presence or absence of ginger.

What is VEGF? Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is an important signaling protein involved in both vasculogenesis (the de novo formation of the embryonic circulatory system) and angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels from pre-existing vasculature).

The overexpression of VEGF may be an early step in the process of metastasis of cancers. VEGF has been well known for inducing angiogenesis. Although VEGF has been correlated with poor survival, its exact mechanism of action in the progression of tumours remains unclear.

What are cytokines? Cytokines are a group of proteins and peptides that are used in organisms as signaling compounds. These chemical signals are similar to hormones and neurotransmitters and are used to allow one cell to communicate with another. While hormones are released from specific organs into the blood and neurotransmitters are released by nerves, cytokines are released by many types of cells. They are particularly important in both innate and adaptive immune responses. Due to their central role in the immune system, cytokines are involved in a variety of immunological, inflammatory and infectious diseases.

Interleukin-8 (IL-8) was originally found to function as a macrophage derived proangiogenic factor, and has since been shown to affect cancer progression through mitogenic, angiogenic and motogenic effects. Increased blood levels of IL-8 have been found in ovarian cancer patients, and IL-8 has been shown to stimulate proliferative growth in ovarian cancer cells in vitro.

The results of this study showed that ginger treatment of cultured ovarian cancer cells induced profound growth inhibition in all cell lines tested. The researchers said that 6-shogaol is the most active of the individual ginger components tested. Ginger treatment resulted in inhibition of NF-kB activation as well as diminished secretion of VEGF and IL-8.

Since IL-8 secretion is thought to be regulated in part by NF-kB, and ginger can clearly inhibit NF-kB in ovarian cancer cells, the researchers believed that ginger could also inhibit IL-8 secretion.

The researchers conclude that the use of dietary agents such as ginger may have potential in the treatment and prevention of ovarian cancer.

[BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2007, 7:44]

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