Chemotherapy is commonly used in cancer treatments. Despite the brilliant effectiveness in destroying cancer cells, chemotherapy drugs also harm normal cells and incur adverse side effects. Additionally, chemotherapy is also notorious for drug resistance that greatly reduces the efficacy of cancer treatments. For these reasons, scientists are always on the outlook for new anticancer agents.
Ginsenosides, active components extracted from ginseng, attracted huge attention for their good anticancer properties in the 1960s. Scientists grew interest in this natural medical herb that can not only exerts much toxicity on cancer cells without harming normal cells but also enhance the sensitivity of various resistant cancer cells to conventional chemotherapy.
Researchers Kim et al. investigated the effectiveness of the administration of ginsenoside Rk2 with chemotherapy drugs such as docetaxel, paclitaxel, cisplatin and doxorubicin. They found that compared with a chemotherapy drug or ginsenoside Rk2 alone, a combination of single chemotherapy drug with rare ginsenoside Rk2 exerted more anti-proliferative effects on the colon cancer cells SW480 and HCT-116.
In addition, the study showed that rare ginsenoside Rk2 increased the sensitivity of human prostate cancer cells to the chemotherapy drug, docetaxel, cisplatin and doxorubicin respectively. A combination of ginsenoside Rk2 and docetaxel was more effective in inhibiting the growth of prostate cancer cells and inducing cancer cell apoptosis than ginsenoside Rk2 or docetaxel alone.
Rare ginsenosides also showed good performance in reversing drug resistance. Scientists from Department of Surgery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada have discovered that 20S-Protopanaxadiol(aPPD) inhibits P-glycoprotein in multidrug-resistant cancer cells. South Korean researchers from Department of Pharmacology, College of Medicine, Chosun University had found that PPT ginsenosides can reverse multidrug resistance of acute myelogenous leukemia sublines (AML-2/D100 and AML-2/DX100).
Moreover, the benefit of rare ginsenosides in reducing side effects of chemotherapy was investigated. Researchers found that ginsenosides Rk2 could reduce the side effects of chemotherapy by reducing the renal and hepatic toxicity caused by cisplatin.
Rare ginsenosides are praised for good performance in relieving side effects as well as improving the sensitivity of chemotherapy drugs among scientists. They now have been used as an adjuvant therapy for cancer treatments in some countries.