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27.11.2012


Echinacea kills colon cancer cells

Cichoric Acid
Users of Echinacea supplements may be less likely to develop colon cancer, according to an in-vitro study that researchers at Hungkuang University in Taiwan published earlier this month in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

It's not clear whether Echinacea is any help to cancer patients. In test tubes Echinacea extracts kill pancreas cancer cells and colon cancer cells [J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Mar 1; 110(1): 148-53.], but Echinacea also protects breast cancer cells against the cancer drug doxorubicin. [Chem Biodivers. 2006 Jun; 3(6): 695-703.] So it's not such a good idea to use Echinacea if you're taking doxorubicin, although results are not conclusive.

Animal studies are just as confusing. In a 2007 Russian study, one Echinacea extract stimulated the growth of transplanted lung tumours in lab animals, but a different extract had completely the opposite effect. [Eksp Klin Farmakol. 2007 May-Jun;70(3):33-5.]

The Taiwanese wanted to know more about the interactions between Echinacea purpurea and cancer, so they exposed human colon cancer cells to Echinacea extracts in test tubes. The figure on the left below shows how the extract suppressed HCT-116 cells when exposed for 24 hours; the results are even more convincing when exposure is 48 hours. The graph on the right below shows the effect of exposure to cichoric acid, the most important phenol in Echinacea. [Structural formula is shown at the top of the page.]


Echinacea kills colon cancer cells


The Taiwanese figured out that cichoric acid sabotaged the enzyme telomerase in the colon cancer cells. Many cancer cells produce such large quantities of this enzyme that they are practically impossible to kill.


Echinacea kills colon cancer cells


Echinacea kills colon cancer cells


Cichoric acid activated the suicide protein caspase-9 in the colon cancer cells and reduced the production of the protein b-catenin. This is what caused the cells to die. The increase in the number of split molecules of the enzyme poly ADP ribose polymerase [PARP], an indicator of cell death, was the give-away.

"These results have provided mechanism-based strategies for the development of anti cancer natural products", the researchers conclude.

Source:
J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Oct 11;143(3):914-9.

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