Chemotherapy is currently the main method of treating cancer used in clinical practices. Despite the brilliant performance in combating cancer cells, the treatment still accompanies side effects. Combination therapy, a new treatment that administrates a conventional chemotherapy drug together with one or more natural bioactives with small molecular weight, can achieve synergistic effects against cancers cells, which has attracted huge attention from researchers.
Ginsenosides are natural compounds extracted from Araliaceae plants including American ginseng and Panax ginseng. Scientists found that rare ginsenosides, the metabolite of prototype ginsenosides, exhibit strong anticancer efficacies. A large number of studies were conducted to explore the mechanisms of action of different rare ginsenosides, rare ginsenosides were found not only to exhibit excellent toxic activities on cancerous cells but also to relieve the side effects brought by radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments.
Regarded as a promising therapeutic strategy for combination therapy, rare ginsenosides can enhance anticancer efficacies in the various aspects.
Rare ginsenosides exert toxicity on cancerous cells and induce apoptosis
Rare ginsenosides usually exhibit their own toxicities on certain cancers in a dose-dependent manner. For instance, Chinese scientists have discovered that ginsenoside Rk3 reduced cell viability, inhibited cell proliferation, and induced G1 phase cell cycle arrest. They were also found to inhibit tumor angiogenesis. Ginsenoside Rg3 used in combination with another anticancer drug suramin was found an active inhibitory effect on lung cancer-induced angiogenesis. In addition, Some rare ginsenosides were reported to substantially enhance the immune function, thus curbing the growth and spread of cancer cells towards the other parts of the body.
Noticeably, during the course of fighting cancer, rare ginsenosides just kill cancerous cells and spare the damages from normal healthy cells, which is why they are more favorable as an adjunct therapeutic partner.
Rare ginsenosides enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs by reducing multidrug resistance
Just as bacteria gradually develop a resistant propriety to antibiotics, the frequent use of anticancer drugs will lead to an insensitive response to cancer cells, which finally results in a low efficacy in anticancer activity. South Korean researchers from the Department of Pharmacology, College of Medicine, Chosun University chose the daunorubicin- and doxorubicin-resistant acute myelogenous leukemia sublines (AML-2/D100 and AML-2/DX100) to test whether rare ginsenosides could reverse multidrug resistance or not, and they found that PPT Ginsenosides showed cytotoxicity in AML-2/D100 subline and were able to reverse resistance in a concentration-dependent manner.
Rare ginsenosides reduce side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy
Rare ginsenosides can relieve various side effects caused by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. They can significantly relieve the symptoms like vomiting, alopecia, skin rash, body aches, insomnia, loss of appetites and mentality. Besides, rare ginsenoside can relieve and prevent liver and kidney damages. Previous in vitro and in vivo studies have proved that ginsenoside Rk3 and Rh4 show protective effects on cisplatin-induced acute kidney injury and that ginsenoside Rh3 reduces cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity. Moreover, rare ginsenosides can repair surgical wounds, accelerate physical recovery and improve immune systems.
In some countries, rare ginsenosides have been widely used as an adjuvant agent to help fight cancer in clinical practices. A combination of rare ginsenosides and chemoradiation, radiotherapy or surgery therapy generates diverse synergistic effects on cancer cells. Rare ginsenosides will be a promising adjuvant therapy for fighting cancers.