18 November 2015

Non-toxic combinations of chemical substances from plants may be the key to stopping untreatable and recurring cancer illnesses. This is the conclusion of a gigantic metastudy, the results of which are now being published.

Today’s treatments work well, more or less, on certain forms of cancer, while large problems with resistance and recurrence remain. In addition, many of the new drugs are extremely expensive, highly toxic, and ineffective against rare diagnoses.

180 researchers from 22 countries took up a challenge from “Getting to Know Cancer”, a Canadian organisation: a detailed analysis of studies about the effects of plant substances. One of the project’s multidisciplinary teams was led by Lasse Jensen, vascular researcher at Linköping University and Karolinska Institutet. The team – in which Charlotta Dabrosin, professor of oncology at LiU, also participated – reviewed around 500 works focusing on blood vessel growth. 

This process, also known as angiogenesis, is required for a tumor to be able to grow and spread daughter tumours.

The results are now being published in Seminars in Cancer Biology.

“We lined up ten things that influence the blood vessel growth and pathological function of the tumour. I myself focused on physiological phenomena such as migration of endothelial cells, lack of oxygen, inflammation and inadequate lymphatic vessel function,” Mr Jensen said.

The team identified more than 100 plant-based substances that showed an effect on the selected targets. These were then evaluated with regard to medicinal potential, low toxicity and interaction with other substances. The results were then compared with traditional chemotherapy.

“In today’s chemotherapy, the doctors are often compelled to give the maximum dose, close to the limit for severe side effects. This very likely is not needed with plant-based substances, where the margin between the effective dose and the harmful dose is often greater,” Mr Jensen said.

He hopes that the lessons from the study will give greater status to research into plant-based therapy, and encourage new projects and clinical testing. He himself would like to test combinations of several plant substances and regular chemotherapy.

Examples of plant-based chemicals studied in the project are reservatrol in grapes, genistein in soybeans, and curcumin in turmeric.

“Many of them have been tested for anti-cancer effects, but there has been nearly no research done on combinations of several substances,” says Keith I. Block, research leader at the Block Center for Integrated Cancer Treatment in Illinois.

In light of the evidence presented in the metastudy, he is making inquiries into an immediate research effort in the field. Many questions are still unanswered, and comprehensive animal testing is required before treatment can be tested on people.

Pictured from top: turmeric, grapes, and soybeans.

Article: Broad targeting of angiogenesis for cancer prevention and therapy by Z. Wang, C. Dabrosin, X. Yin, M. M. Fuster, A. Arreola, W. K. Rathmell, D. Generali, G. P. Nagaraju, B. El-Rayes, D. Ribatti, Y. C. Chen, K. Honoki, H. Fujii, A. G. Georgakilas, S. Nowsheen, A. Amedei, E. Niccolai, A. Amin, S. S. Ashraf, B. Helferich, X. Yang, G. Guha, D. Bhakta, M. R. Ciriolo, K. Aquilano, S. Chen, D. Halicka, S. I. Mohammed, A. S. Azmi, A. Bilsland, W. N. Keith, L. D. Jensen. Seminars in Cancer Biology, 18 November 2015, doi:10.1016/j.semcancer.2015.01.001

Published 2015-11-18