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New 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]