Uncovering Plant-Based Treatments to Combat Breast Cancer

Jenn Hoskins
19th April, 2024

Uncovering Plant-Based Treatments to Combat Breast Cancer

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In India, certain medicinal plants were found to slow down the growth of aggressive HER2-positive breast cancer cells
  • Some plant extracts, like those from Terminalia chebula, also lowered the levels of the HER2 protein, which is crucial for cancer cell survival
  • These plants may trigger cancer cell death and affect various cellular pathways, offering a potential natural treatment alternative
Breast cancer is a complex disease, exhibiting diverse characteristics that can affect treatment outcomes and patient prognosis. One subtype, known as HER2-positive breast cancer, is particularly aggressive and can resist conventional therapies, presenting a significant challenge in clinical management[2]. While targeted therapies like trastuzumab have been developed to combat this subtype, they are not without drawbacks, including potential for heart-related side effects and the development of resistance[3]. Consequently, there is a pressing need for alternative treatments that can effectively target HER2-positive breast cancer cells without these adverse effects. In light of this need, a recent study by the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi has explored a new avenue for treatment using medicinal plants[1]. Historically, plants have been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including cancers, but scientific validation of their efficacy against specific cancer subtypes has been lacking. This study aimed to fill that gap by systematically testing extracts from 10 medicinal plants for their anticancer properties against HER2-positive breast cancer cells. The research team employed several laboratory techniques to evaluate the effects of the plant extracts. The SRB assay was used to determine the impact on cell proliferation—a measure of how quickly cancer cells grow. The comet assay provided insights into DNA damage, while annexin V-FITC dual staining helped identify the early stages of cancer cell death. Immunoblotting, a method to detect specific proteins, was used to measure the levels of HER2 expression after treatment with the plant extracts. Remarkably, all tested plant extracts demonstrated the ability to inhibit the growth of HER2-positive breast cancer cells. Notably, extracts from Terminalia chebula, Berberis aristata, and Mucuna pruriens went a step further by reducing the expression of the HER2 protein itself. This finding is significant because HER2 is a key driver of cancer growth and survival in this breast cancer subtype. The study also observed an increased Bax/Bcl-2 ratio after treatment with the plant extracts. This ratio is an indicator of the balance between pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic proteins within the cell, with a higher ratio favoring apoptosis, the process of programmed cell death that is often defective in cancer cells. To delve deeper into the cellular changes induced by the plant treatments, the researchers conducted a comparative proteomics study. This approach allowed them to compare the protein profiles of breast cancer cells before and after treatment, revealing that the plant extracts could modulate the proteome, or the entire set of proteins expressed by the cells. Such modulation suggests that the plant extracts may be influencing a broad range of cellular pathways to exert their anticancer effects. Furthermore, metabolic profiling of the lead plants identified a variety of compounds with known anticancer properties. This supports the idea that these plants contain multiple active ingredients that could be contributing to their observed effects on HER2-positive breast cancer cells. The findings of this study are promising, suggesting that certain medicinal plants have the potential to serve as innovative therapies for HER2-positive breast cancer. These plants could offer a natural, less toxic alternative to current treatments, and may help overcome some of the limitations of existing therapies, such as trastuzumab resistance[2] and cardiotoxicity[3]. Additionally, the study builds on previous work that has characterized the molecular subtypes of breast cancer[4], providing new insights into how natural compounds might interact with these subtypes at the molecular level. While these results are encouraging, further research is needed to understand the exact mechanisms by which these plant extracts exert their effects, and to determine their safety and efficacy in clinical settings. Nonetheless, this study represents an important step toward the development of new, more holistic approaches to cancer treatment, potentially expanding the arsenal of weapons against a formidable foe.

MedicineBiotechPlant Science


Main Study

1) Exploring Anticancer Properties of Medicinal Plants against Breast Cancer by Downregulating Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2.

Published 16th April, 2024


Related Studies

2) CMTM6 overexpression confers trastuzumab resistance in HER2-positive breast cancer.


3) The mechanistic insights of the arrhythmogenic effect of trastuzumab.


4) Molecular Classification of Breast Carcinoma: From Traditional, Old-Fashioned Way to A New Age, and A New Way.


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