Indian herb prevents cancer progress



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February 10, 2008  
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acanthus-ilicifolius.jpgCM NEWS – An Indian medicinal plant Acanthus ilicifolius shows encouraging results in preventing liver cancer cells from progressing, dubbed chemoprevention, according to a study.

What is chemoprevention? The aim of cancer chemoprevention is to circumvent the development and progression of malignant cells through the use of non-cytotoxic nutrients, herbal preparations/natural plant products, and/or pharmacological agents. Encouraging dietary intake with herbal supplements may therefore be an effective strategy to limit DNA lesions and organic injuries leading to cancers and other chronic degenerative diseases.

(Another CM NEWS article talks about a .)

Acanthus ilicifolius, popularly known as “Holly Mangrove”, is distributed widely throughout the mangroves of India, including Sunderbans in West Bengal, west coasts, and the Andamans, and in other Asian countries like Singhal, Burma, China, Thailand etc.

How has Acanthus ilicifolius been used to traditional medicines? The leaves of Acanthus ilicifolius are used to treat rheumatism, neuralgia and poison arrow wounds (Malaysia). It is widely believed among mangrove dwellers that chewing the leaves will protect against snake bite.

The pounded seeds of Acanthus ebracteatus are used to treat boils, the juice of leaves to prevent hair loss and the leaves themselves to ward off evil (Malay). Both species are also used to treat kidney stones.

The whole plant is boiled in fresh water, and the patient drinks the solution instead of water, half a glass at a time, until the signs and symptoms disappear (Thailand). Water extracted from the bark is used to treat colds and skin allergies. Ground fresh bark is used as an antiseptic.

Tea brewed from the leaves relieves pain and purifies the blood (widespread in both the Old and New World).

Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the world with a poor prognosis. About three quarters of the cases of liver cancer are found in Southeast Asia, including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, India, and Japan. The frequency of liver cancer in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa is greater than 20 cases per 100,000 population. Moreover, recent data show the frequency of liver cancer in the U.S. overall is rising.

The study was done at the Department of Pharmaceutical Technology, Jadavpur University, India. The research team, led by Dr Malay Chatterjee, investigated the primary chemopreventive mechanisms of Acanthus ilicifolius (??? in Chinese) in an in vivo tumour-transplanted murine model.

The results showed the aqueous leaf extract (ALE) of the plant was substantially effective in preventing hepatic DNA alterations and sister-chromatid exchanges (a type of chromosomal damage) in tumour-bearing mice.

Cancerous mice treated with the ALE significantly reduced viable tumour cell count by 68.34% when compared to the control, and restored body and organ weights almost to the normal values.

The study further demonstrated that ALE treatment was able to limit liver metallothionein expression, a potential marker for cell proliferation, and lengthen the mean survival of animals to a significant extent. The findings suggest that Acanthus ilicifolius may be used as a potential chemoprotector against hepatic neoplasia.

The results obtained from this in vivo study seem interesting and encouraging. Lack of toxicity favours further preclinical evaluation of Acanthus ilicifolius in a defined chemical carcinogenesis model.

“Our data indicate that, ALE is beneficial in restoring haematological and hepatic histological profiles and in lengthening the survival of the animals against the proliferation of ascites tumour in vivo,” the researchers write.

Elucidation of its anticarcinogenic mechanisms of action at the intricate molecular circuits, and isolation and characterization of its active principles, will provide a better understanding of the anti-cancer/chemoprevention strategy of Acanthus ilicifolius.

“If these studies are found to be really functional, we will have the beginning of a new chemoprevention program with herbal supplements that could have the broadest implications for the well-being of society,” the researchers say.

[World J Gastroenterol 2007 December;13(48):6538-6548]