The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute researchers today presented, at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in San Diego, CA, the potential benefits of Thymoquinone (TQ), a compound present in the oil of black seeds (Nigella sativa), in treating pancreatic cancer.
For centuries, these black seeds have been consumed in Asia, Africa and the Middle East to promote health and fight disease. TQ, an active component of the seeds, has been isolated for its promise as a chemo preventative agent. Pancreatic cancer cells currently have a high degree of inherent and acquired chemo resistance to standard chemotherapy agents Gemcitabine and/or Oxaliplatin, making these drugs only moderately effective.
“Our goal with this study was to increase the effectiveness of current pancreatic cancer treatments with a naturally occurring substance,” said Sanjeev Banerjee, Ph.D., researcher, working under the leadership of Fazlul Sarkar, Ph.D., professor of pathology at the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University. “We also explored the molecular mechanisms associated with TQ to promote better therapeutic outcomes.”
Drs. Banerjee and Sarkar, along with Karmanos researchers Ramzi Mohammad, Ph.D. and Zhiwei Wang, Ph.D., pre-treated pancreatic tumor cells possessing different molecular signatures (HPAC, BxPC-3, Panc-1 and MDA Panc-28, COLO 357, L3.6pl), with TQ prior to administering Gemcitabine and Oxaliplatin. They found that TQ significantly enhanced the chemosensitivity of the tumor cells, making the Gemcitabine and Oxaliplatin agents more effective in treating the cancer. The TQ pre-treatment improved the drugs’ effect on promoting cancer cell death and halting tumor cell growth.
Karmanos researchers also discovered at a molecular level, TQ down regulated the normally active NF–?B transcription factor and several of its downstream effector genes responsible for metastasis and cell invasion. NF–?B is involved in cellular responses to stimuli such as stress, free radicals, ultraviolet irradiation and bacterial or viral antigens. It also plays a key role in regulating the immune response to infection, and is instrumental in the development of many chronic diseases, including cancer. These results suggest that an important molecular target could be down regulated by TQ in reversing chemo resistance, as well as the inhibition of invasion and metastasis of pancreatic cancer.
Further research is currently underway at Karmanos to obtain better clues for TQ’s efficacy in future Phase I/II clinical trials. Thus, the research team at Karmanos is actively collaborating with physicians both at the Karmanos Cancer Center and the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas for assessing the clinical utility of TQ.
- Pancreatic Cancer: What Are the Risk Factors? (everydayhealth.com)