A recent study reveals the potential of some medicinal plants from Mauritius to help in fighting cancer. The chemical compounds in these plants show an inhibitory action against cancer cells. This is a new possibility, which may lead to formulating anticancer drugs in the future.
The study is published in the journal Acta Naturae and is available online to read.
The researchers from Mauritius, the United Kingdom, and the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU), Russia work on testing herbs against cancer.
Geographically, Mauritian islands are located in the Indian Ocean. They are partly isolated from the rest of the land. That is why the flora and fauna here has their own uniqueness and variety. Now, this new study finds that many of these medicinal plants of Mauritius may help to fight esophageal cancer.
Like other types of cancer, there are no exact causes of esophageal cancer. However, chronic irritation of the esophageal cells may play a part in its development.
Some of the factors that may cause this irritation of cells are gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), obesity, smoking, and alcohol.
Which plants have anti-cancer potential?
The team of scientists studied the extracts of the local medicinal herbs i.e. Acalypha integrifolia, Eugenia tinifolia, and Labourdonnaisia glauca. All of these only grow in Mauritius exclusively and nowhere else.
Certain chemicals inside the plants were able to show antitumor properties. These chemicals work by inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells. They activate the 5′ AMP-activated kinase (AMPK) signaling pathway, which is linked with energy maintenance during metabolic stress inside the body.
This AMPK signaling pathway is one of the major targets for almost every therapeutic agent against major diseases including cancer. Anything that works on AMPK activation is of prime importance in molecular oncology.
The research shows the biodiversity in Mauritius islands can help to find treatments of various diseases. Nearly one-third of the plants here have some type of medicinal value. But still, there is no scientific research to verify their potential.
Esophageal cancer is a global health concern due to unhealthy diet patterns and life choices. For now, chemotherapy may help to save some time for cancer patients but getting it, again and again, has its own repercussions. Like medicines, long-term exposure to chemotherapy affects the quality of life in a negative way. Also, it leaves the patient in emotional stress and pain.
In oncology, esophageal cancer and adenocarcinoma are the sixth major cause of death globally. An adenocarcinoma is a special form of cancer, which starts from the glands and then spreads to all organs. The cancer treatment majorly depends upon tumor site, spread, size and stage as well.
In this recent study, the team studied the effects of Mauritian plant extracts on cells from two types of malignant tumors obtained from patients. Out of five plants in the study, three showed significantly higher inhibition of the oesophageal cancer cells growth.
The future of cancer treatment
Future medicine for cancer may lie in biodiversity. Even, for now, many people prefer using herbal medicines for all diseases. The traditional medicine has been around humans for centuries so any question on its effectiveness is void.
Many health experts believe that modern treatments should consider traditional sources to find new treatment drugs, especially for cancer. The natural sources i.e. plant, fungi, yeast, bacteria, mold may help to some extent.
The future of medicine is somehow related to the preservation of biodiversity. The biodiversity loss negatively impacts the chances to look for better herbal treatments for the future. Human activities are damaging the environment as well as all natural sources that may play part in drug development.
It is necessary to save the biological compounds and create a worldwide database system of the natural molecules that may integrate traditional treatments in modern development. More research in this regard will benefit humanity and may find a treatment for esophageal cancer in the near future.