Research published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology found that “ginger may be a promising candidate for the treatment of breast carcinomas.”[i] This is a timely finding, insofar as breast cancer awareness month is only days away, and one of the primary fund-raising justifications is the false concept that a low-cost, safe and effective breast cancer treatment is not yet available. Could ginger provide the type of cure that conventional, FDA-approved treatments have yet to accomplish?
The new study was performed by researchers at the Biological Sciences Department, Faculty of Sciences, King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia, who discovered that a crude extract derived from the medicinal plant ginger (Zingiber officinale) inhibited the proliferation of breast cancer cells, without significantly affecting the viability of non-tumor breast cells — a highly promising property known as selective cytotoxicity, not found in conventional treatments.
The researchers outline the serious problems with present breast cancer therapies thusly:
Despite significant advances toward targeted therapy and screening techniques, breast cancer continues to be a chronic medical problem worldwide, being the most common type of cancer in women and the leading cause of death . Typically, the treatment of breast cancer involves hormonal therapy with tamoxifen or other selective estrogen receptor (ER) modulators [2–4]. However, almost all patients with metastatic disease and approximately 40% of patients that receive tamoxifen experience relapse that ends by death . In addition, the clinical utility of ER antagonists is often limited by side effects [2, 3, 6] and is largely ineffective against ER-negative breast cancer [2, 3]. Furthermore, despite the fact that many tumors initially respond to chemotherapy, breast cancer cells can subsequently survive and gain resistance to the treatment . Thus, identification of novel agents that are relatively safe but can suppress growth of both ER-positive and ER-negative human breast cancers is highly desirable.
They described their interest in investigating crude extracts of ginger in the following manner:
Despite knowledge about the potent anticancer activity of the ginger, the molecular mechanisms underlying this activity are not currently well known in breast cancer. Based on the previously mentioned reported scientific data and considering the fact that in some cases herbal extracts are showing more potency than the purified components [21, 22], the present study was undertaken to investigate the impacts of crude extracts of ginger on growth of breast cancer cell lines.
They discovered that ginger was capable of positively modulating a surprisingly wide range of molecular mechanisms simultaneously, such as:
- Induction of apoptosis (programmed cell death)
- Upregulation of Bax (a pro-apoptosis gene)
- Downregulation of Bcl-2 proteins (cancer-associated)
- Downregulation of prosurvival genes NF-κB, Bcl-X, Mcl-1, and Survivin
- Downregulation of cell cycle-regulating proteins, including cyclin D1 and cyclin-dependent kinase-4 (CDK-4). (cancer-associated)
- Increased expression of CDK inhibitor, p21 (anti-cancer associated)
- Inhibition of c-Myc, hTERT (cancer-associated)
This is not the first study to confirm ginger’s anti-breast cancer properties.[ii] In fact, a ginger compound known as -Gingerol has recently been shown to have anti-metastatic properties in breast cancer. [iii] Nor is ginger’s anti-cancer activity limited to breast cancer. Ginger and its constituents have been studied to inhibit the following cancers:
- Colon and Rectal Cancer[iv]
- Liver Cancer [v] [vi] [vii]
- Lung Cancer [viii] [ix]
- Melanoma [x]
- Pancreatic Cancer [xi] [xii]
- Prostate Cancer [xiii] [xiv] [xv]
- Skin Cancer [xvi]
Ginger is an archetypal example of a food-medicine – that is, something we ingest that both nourishes us, and helps alleviate pain and suffering. Today, it is consumed as a delicacy, spice and medicine by hundreds of cultures throughout the world. Modern science now confirms that ginger has over 100 distinct health benefits.[xvii] It’s use stretches back thousands of years – something no existing FDA-approved drug can lay claim to – and is believed to have originated in southern China, spreading to the Spice Islands and other regions of Asia, and eventually to West Africa, the Caribbean, finally to India, its largest producer.[xviii] There is also recent evidence that ginger was traded in Greece, as far back as 3rd century BC.[xix]
[i] Ayman I Elkady, Osama A Abuzinadah, Nabih A Baeshen, Tarek R Rahmy. Differential Control of Growth, Apoptotic Activity, and Gene Expression in Human Breast Cancer Cells by Extracts Derived from Medicinal Herbs Zingiber officinale. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012 ;2012:614356. Epub 2012 Aug 26. PMID: 22969274
[ii] Ya-Ling Hsu, Chung-Yi Chen, Ming-Feng Hou, Eing-Mei Tsai, Yuh-Jyh Jong, Chih-Hsing Hung, Po-Lin Kuo. 6-Dehydrogingerdione, an active constituent of dietary ginger, induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis through reactive oxygen species/c-Jun N-terminal kinase pathways in human breast cancer cells. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Feb 19. Epub 2010 Feb 19. PMID: 20175081
[iii] Hyun Sook Lee, Eun Young Seo, Nam E Kang, Woo Kyung Kim. -Gingerol inhibits metastasis of MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells. J Nutr Biochem. 2008 May;19(5):313-9. Epub 2007 Aug 1. PMID: 17683926
[v] Shafina Hanim Mohd Habib, Suzana Makpol, Noor Aini Abdul Hamid, Srijit Das, Wan Zurinah Wan Ngah, Yasmin Anum Mohd Yusof. Ginger extract (Zingiber officinale) has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects on ethionine-induced hepatoma rats. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2008 Dec ;63(6):807-13. PMID: 19061005
[vi] Mahmoud A Mansour, Saleh A Bekheet, Salim S Al-Rejaie, Othman A Al-Shabanah, Tawfeq A Al-Howiriny, Ammar C Al-Rikabi, Ayman A Abdo. Ginger ingredients inhibit the development of diethylnitrosoamine induced premalignant phenotype in rat chemical hepatocarcinogenesis model. Biofactors. 2010 Nov-Dec;36(6):483-90. Epub 2010 Sep 24. PMID: 20872761
[vii] Yasmin Anum Mohd Yusof, Norliza Ahmad, Srijit Das, Suhaniza Sulaiman, Nor Azian Murad. Chemopreventive efficacy of ginger (Zingiber officinale) in ethionine induced rat hepatocarcinogenesis. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2008 ;6(1):87-93. Epub 2008 Oct 25. PMID: 20162046
[viii] Wirote Tuntiwechapikul, Thanachai Taka, Chonnipa Songsomboon, Navakoon Kaewtunjai, Arisa Imsumran, Luksana Makonkawkeyoon, Wilart Pompimon, T Randall Lee. Ginger extract inhibits human telomerase reverse transcriptase and c-Myc expression in A549 lung cancer cells. J Med Food. 2010 Dec;13(6):1347-54. PMID: 21091248
[ix] Mihye Kim, Shingo Miyamoto, Yumiko Yasui, Takeru Oyama, Akira Murakami, Takuji Tanaka. Zerumbone, a tropical ginger sesquiterpene, inhibits colon and lung carcinogenesis in mice. Int J Cancer. 2009 Jan 15;124(2):264-71. PMID: 19003968
[x] Huey-Chun Huang, Shao-Hua Chiu, Tsong-Min Chang. Inhibitory effect of -gingerol on melanogenesis in B16F10 melanoma cells and a possible mechanism of action. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2011 ;75(6):1067-72. Epub 2011 Jun 13. PMID: 21670536
[xi] Yon Jung Park, Jing Wen, Seungmin Bang, Seung Woo Park, Si Young Song. -Gingerol induces cell cycle arrest and cell death of mutant p53-expressing pancreatic cancer cells. Yonsei Med J. 2006 Oct 31;47(5):688-97. PMID: 17066513
[xii] Songyan Zhang, Qiaojing Liu, Yanju Liu, Hong Qiao, Yu Liu . Zerumbone, a Southeast Asian Ginger Sesquiterpene, Induced Apoptosis of Pancreatic Carcinoma Cells through p53 Signaling Pathway. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012 ;2012:936030. Epub 2012 Jan 29. PMID: 22454691
[xiii] Larisa Nonn, David Duong, Donna M Peehl . Chemopreventive anti-inflammatory activities of curcumin and other phytochemicals mediated by MAP kinase phosphatase-5 in prostate cells. Carcinogenesis. 2007 Jun;28(6):1188-96. Epub 2006 Dec 6. PMID: 17151092
[xiv] Yogeshwer Shukla, Sahdeo Prasad, Chitra Tripathi, Madhulika Singh, Jasmine George, Neetu Kalra. In vitro and in vivo modulation of testosterone mediated alterations in apoptosis related proteins by -gingerol. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Dec;51(12):1492-502. PMID: 18030663
[xv] Sharma, Meenakshi V Gupta, Ritu Aneja. Benefits of whole ginger extract in prostate cancer. Br J Nutr. 2011 Aug 18:1-12. Epub 2011 Aug 18. PMID: 21849094
[xvi] Nidhi Nigam, Kulpreet Bhui, Sahdeo Prasad, Jasmine George, Yogeshwer Shukla. -Gingerol induces reactive oxygen species regulated mitochondrial cell death pathway in human epidermoid carcinoma A431 cells. Chem Biol Interact. 2009 Sep 14;181(1):77-84. Epub 2009 May 27. PMID: 19481070
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