Chemotherapy and radiation are common treatments for breast cancer. Despite taking effects in controlling the growth of cancer cells, they also cause many painful side effects. Scientists are always on the lookout for new alternatives. A new study found that ginsenoside Rh4 could be a potentially effective antitumor agent for breast cancer.
Researchers from Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Degradable Biomedical Material at Northwest University in China conducted a study, published in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, to determine the antitumor effect of ginsenoside Rh4 on breast cancer.
In the experiment, xenograft models were randomly divided into 3 groups and two groups were set up as experimental groups treated with different levels of ginsenoside Rh4. The results showed that ginsenoside Rh4 effectively inhibited proliferation, arrested the cell cycle in S phase and induced apoptosis in the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line.
Researchers also made a western-blot analysis which indicated that the apoptosis-inducing effects of ginsenoside Rh4 were linked to the external pathway by decreasing anti-apoptotic protein, Bcl-2, increasing pro-apoptotic protein, Bax, and activating caspase-8, -3 and PARP. Besides, ginsenoside Rh4 was observed to significantly inhibit the growth of MCF-7 breast tumor cells in vivo.
“Few studies have focused on the anti-tumor activity of ginsenoside Rh4, and our study results suggested that ginsenoside Rh4 could be a potentially effective anti-tumor drug for breast cancer,” noted Zhiguang Duan, the corresponding author of the study.
This is not the first time that ginsenosides were found to exhibit anti-breast cancer efficacy. Transformed from the prototype ginsenosides, rare ginsenosides, including Rh2, Rk2, Rh3 and aPPD, exhibit antitumor and anti-inflammatory properties. Previous research published in the journal Cancer uncovered that rare ginsenoside aPPD effectively inhibits estrogen-stimulated gene expression and cell proliferation in ER-positive breast cancer cells, and that aPPD synergistically enhances the cytotoxicity of tamoxifen, an anti-breast cancer drug, in an ER-independent manner.
Featured with its remarkable anticancer efficacy, ginsenosides are greatly expected to be a very promising anticancer drug. The application of ginsenosides has long been a heated research project for a host of scientists. The large-scale transformation of ginsenosides into rare ginsenosides requires high biotechnology and preparation technology which are huge challenges for many pharmaceutical companies.
Pharmaceutical companies also see the potentials of rare ginsenosides and they have shown interest in the application of rare ginsenosides. Nowadays, products containing multiple rare ginsenosides like Rk2, Rh3, aPPD, Rh2 and Rg3 are available on the market.