Recently, a research team led by Clemens A. Schmitt, a professor in the Department of Hematology, Oncology, and Tumor Immunology at Charité-University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany, published a breakthrough study in the journal Nature，revealing that some chemotherapy drugs, while killing cancer cells, increase proliferation and invasion ability of the survivors.
How chemotherapy drugs that treat cancer work?
Cellular senescence is an important mechanism for the body to maintain homeostasis. When cells are forced with severe damages like irreparable DNA damaging, they will reduce cell senescence, thus inhibiting the division and proliferation of cells. That is exactly the mechanism of action of Chemotherapy: interrupting the division and proliferation of cells and inducing cell apoptosis.
Some cancer cells get stronger after chemotherapy
However, Prof. Schmitt’s team found that chemotherapy drugs that accelerate cancer cells to the senescence stage and induce apoptosis can help activate stem cells, making them more capable of proliferating and invading. Once these cancer cells have the chance to survive the senescence, they will quickly form a complete tumor tissue. This finding was confirmed in both mice and human trials.
Will chemotherapy worsen cancer or better cancer?
This breakthrough study reignited the existing disputes on the effect of chemotherapy. In addition to previous studies finding that the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel promotes cancer metastasis, chemotherapy drugs have been found to enhance some cancer cells, not to mention their side effects. Many patients and their families are doubting the roles of chemotherapy in treating cancers.
However, since there are no better alternatives, chemotherapy will still be the main option for cancer treating in the long coming future. Scientists are working on finding some less toxic therapies for cancers and a large number of medical scientists target traditional Chinese medicine ginseng.
With years of study on ginseng, scientists found that ginsenosides, the extract compounds from ginseng, exhibit anticancer activities, and can be ideal chemotherapy partners.
The side effects of the current chemotherapy include strengthening of some cancer cells, promoting cancer metastasis, multidrug resistance and damaging normal cells. The scientists found that rare ginsenosides produced in a transformation manner can help solve these problems.
Rare ginsenosides can enhance the anti-cancer effects of chemotherapy drugs
Many researchers found that rare ginsenosides enable chemotherapy drugs to inhibit cancer cell proliferation and induce cancer cell apoptosis in a more powerful manner. For example, scientists at Jilin University in China and Seoul National University in South Korea found that rare ginsenosides can enhance the anticancer effects of chemotherapy drugs epirubicin and paclitaxel, and the combination of the two chemotherapy drugs and rare ginsenosides reduce the survival of cancer cells.
Rare ginsenosides can significantly inhibit the invasion and metastasis ability of cancer cells
Previous studies found that the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel may promote cancer metastasis due to its boost to tumor angiogenesis in some way. Scientists found that rare ginsenosides present significant inhibitory effect on tumor angiogenesis, and the invasion and metastasis of cancer cells. This suggests that the combination of ginsenosides and chemotherapy drugs will significantly weaken the invasion and metastasis ability of cancer cells.
Rare Ginsenosides can reverse cancer multidrug resistance
The resistance of tumor cells to chemotherapy drugs leads to a decrease in the efficacy of chemotherapy, which is frequently seen in clinical practices. Studies found that rare ginsenosides can increase the membrane permeability of cancer cells and enhance the cellular uptake of chemotherapy drugs, thus reversing the multidrug resistance of tumors.
Rare ginsenosides can reduce the side effects of chemotherapy
Studies found that rare ginsenosides can significantly reduce the negative effects of chemotherapy drugs on normal cells. Some side effects, including vomiting, rashing, hair loss, insomnia, liver and kidney damage, can be released when cancer cells are treated with rare ginsenosides.
Rare Ginsenosides help not only increase the anticancer efficacy of chemotherapy drugs but also reduce their damages. For this reason, rare ginsenosides are the ideal partners for chemotherapy, and the combination of rare ginsenosides and chemotherapy drugs will become a promising anticancer strategy.