Exploring Garlic Extracts and Cancer Drug Impact on Colon Cancer Cells

Greg Howard
12th April, 2024

Exploring Garlic Extracts and Cancer Drug Impact on Colon Cancer Cells

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In Turkey, black garlic showed higher antioxidant levels than white when water-extracted
  • White garlic with chemo drug 5-FU increased cancer cell death
  • Some garlic extracts may boost chemo effectiveness but can also have pro-oxidant effects
Garlic has long been cherished not only as a flavorful culinary ingredient but also for its potential health benefits. Among these, the possibility that garlic could play a role in cancer prevention or treatment has captured the attention of the scientific community. A new study by researchers at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Turkey[1] has explored how different extracts of garlic, specifically white and black varieties, impact colon cancer cells. This research builds on previous findings that have hinted at garlic's anticancer properties[2][3][4]. The study in question focused on the antioxidant and antiproliferative (cell growth inhibiting) effects of these garlic extracts. Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that the body produces as a reaction to environmental and other pressures. The antiproliferative effect is particularly important in cancer research, as it involves the ability to inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells. The researchers compared the effects of cold-extracted white and black garlic extracts on colon cancer cells. Black garlic is simply regular garlic that has been aged under specific temperature and humidity conditions, resulting in its darker color, softer texture, and different flavor profile. The study found that black garlic extracted in water (SSU) had the highest levels of antioxidant activity, phenolic content, and flavonoid content. Phenolics and flavonoids are types of compounds known for their antioxidant properties. On the other hand, black garlic extracted in ethanol (SET) showed the lowest values in these measures. A particularly interesting aspect of the study was the examination of caspase-3 and caspase-8 activity. Caspases are a family of enzymes that play essential roles in programmed cell death (apoptosis), which is a crucial process in preventing cancer development. The study revealed that white garlic extracted in methanol (BME), especially when combined with the chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), significantly increased caspase-3 activity. Additionally, this combination showed the highest caspase-8 activity, suggesting a strong induction of apoptosis in the cancer cells. The study also measured levels of NF-κB and COX-2, both of which are involved in inflammation and have been linked to cancer progression. A decrease in NF-κB levels was observed in the group treated with SET combined with 5-FU, while COX-2 activities decreased in several groups, including BME, SET+5-FU, SET, and 5-FU treatments. Another aspect the researchers looked at was the effect of the garlic extracts on wound healing, which serves as a model for cell migration, an important factor in cancer spread. The study found that wound healing increased in the BME, BME+5-FU, SET+5-FU, and 5-FU groups, suggesting that these treatments might help inhibit the spread of cancer cells. However, the study also noted that aqueous black garlic extract could exhibit pro-oxidant activity despite its high antioxidant capacity. Pro-oxidants are the opposite of antioxidants; they can induce oxidative stress, which can potentially lead to cell damage. This highlights the complexity of garlic's effects on the body and suggests that the relationship between garlic intake and cancer risk is not straightforward. This research is significant as it is the first to combine garlic with chemopreventive drugs like 5-FU in treating Caco-2 cells, a type of colon cancer cell. The findings suggest that certain garlic extracts, particularly when used in conjunction with chemotherapy drugs, may enhance the drugs' effectiveness. The results of this study are in line with earlier research[2] that found crude garlic extract to have potential as an anticancer agent, particularly in inducing apoptosis in cancer cells. Moreover, the current study adds to our understanding by comparing different garlic extracts and their interactions with chemotherapy drugs, which had not been previously studied in depth. While this research is promising, it is important to note that the evidence for garlic's anticancer effects is still emerging. A review of human studies found limited evidence to support a relationship between garlic consumption and reduced cancer risk[4]. Therefore, while garlic may have potential as part of a cancer treatment regimen, more research is needed to understand its effects fully and how best to harness them. In conclusion, the study by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Turkey contributes to the growing body of evidence suggesting that garlic and its extracts could be valuable in the fight against cancer, particularly when used in combination with other treatments. However, the complexity of its effects, especially concerning pro-oxidant activity, warrants further investigation to fully understand the role garlic can play in cancer prevention and therapy.



Main Study

1) Investigation of Antiproliferative Effects of Combinations of White and Black Garlic Extracts with 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) on Caco-2 Colorectal Adenocarcinoma Cells.

Published 11th April, 2024


Related Studies

2) Crude Garlic Extract Inhibits Cell Proliferation and Induces Cell Cycle Arrest and Apoptosis of Cancer Cells In Vitro.


3) Effects of water garlic extracts on cell cycle and viability of HepG2 hepatoma cells.

Journal: The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, Issue: Vol 17, Issue 11, Nov 2006

4) Garlic intake and cancer risk: an analysis using the Food and Drug Administration's evidence-based review system for the scientific evaluation of health claims.


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