A recent study has revealed that ginger contains a potent agent that can kill cancer cells at the very beginning of the malignancy with 10000 times more efficacy than traditional chemotherapy.
According to the latest study published in PLoS, an active ingredient of ginger known as 6-shogoal attacks the cancer cells at their primary stages (known as cancer stem cells) with more affinity than chemotherapeutic agents.
Cancer stem cells give rise to various types of cancers except breast cancer for which they are termed as parent cells. They grow and divide to produce a cluster of daughter cells that ultimately make up the tumor. Although stem cells occupy only 0.2 to 1% volume of the tumor, they have the properties of self-renewal and differentiation. Various levels of differentiation can result in resistance to chemotherapy. They are also invasive or migratory in nature which can create new tumor mass at a distant site known as the secondary tumor. For a visible and sustainable cure, these cells should be destroyed in the first place.
6-Shagoal as anti-cancer agent
Recently scientists have extracted a potent compound from cooked and dried root of ginger known as 6-shogoal, which showed powerful activity against cancer stem cells. Like many other naturally occurring anti-cancer agents, 6-shogoal kills cancer cells without affecting normal cells. Conventional cancer treatment options invariably show toxicity to normal cells in addition to malignant cells.
Different mechanisms involved in the killing of breast cancer cells by 6-shagoal are as follows-
- It inhibits the expression of cancer stem-cell surface markers CD44/CD24 in breast cancer spheroids (a 3-D cell culture model of cancer stem cells).
- It interrupts the cell cycle resulting in increased death of cancer cells.
- It induces apoptosis and autophagy and thus increased programmed cell death.
- Breast cancer spheroids cannot form due to interruption of Notch signaling pathway.
- It has activity against monolayer and spheroid cells leading to their death.
The researchers compared 6-shagoal with a chemotherapeutic agent taxol to see their potency and noticed a remarkable difference. Taxol exhibits in-vitro toxicity against the one-dimensional (monolayer) experimental model, but it leaves spheroid model unaffected which is the actual configuration of tumors. That means taxol acts only on the surface layer of the tumor leading to the partial success of the treatment. Nature of activity of taxol is not changed even at higher concentration.
On the other hand, 6-shagoal is active against spheroid models in addition to monolayer cells. Taxol does not show this effect even at 10,000 fold higher concentration of 6-shagoal. This finding is a breakthrough in cancer research as it establishes the role of cancer stem cells.
The authors pointed to the potential of natural anti-cancer agents as future treatment options. Researchers are now fed up with the toxicity and resistance associated with conventional cancer treatments. According to the authors,
“Dietary compounds are potential treatment options for various diseases due to their tolerability and efficacy in human bodies.”
This study will work as inspiration for researchers in finding new naturally occurring substances, particularly dietary compounds to treat cancer at the very beginning while avoiding the toxicity and sufferings associated with traditional treatment options like radiotherapy and chemotherapy.