Plant Compounds Modulating Cell Recycling and Stress for Cancer Treatment

Jim Crocker
6th July, 2024

Plant Compounds Modulating Cell Recycling and Stress for Cancer Treatment

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study from the United Arab Emirates University investigates how plant-based compounds can affect cancer cells by modulating autophagy and ER stress
  • Certain phytochemicals like celastrol, curcumin, emodin, and resveratrol can trigger ER stress, leading to cancer cell death
  • Compounds such as 6-gingerol and shikonin can induce autophagy, which may either help cancer cells survive or lead to their death, depending on the context
Cancer remains a formidable challenge in medical science, with researchers continually seeking effective treatments. One promising avenue involves targeting autophagy and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, processes that can promote cancer cell survival but also induce cell death when excessively activated. A recent study from the United Arab Emirates University delves into how various plant-based compounds, known as phytochemicals, can modulate these processes to exert anticancer effects[1]. Autophagy is a cellular process that degrades and recycles cellular components, which normally helps cells survive under stress. Similarly, ER stress occurs when the ER, an organelle involved in protein folding, becomes overwhelmed, leading to the activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) to restore normal function. However, when these mechanisms are overstressed, they can lead to cell death, which is a desirable outcome when targeting cancer cells. The study highlights several phytochemicals that induce ER stress-mediated apoptosis, a form of programmed cell death, through various pathways. For instance, compounds like celastrol, curcumin, emodin, and resveratrol activate the UPR, leading to cancer cell death. These findings align with previous research showing that certain plant-based compounds, such as flavokawains from kava-kava, can induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in cancer cells[2]. Specifically, flavokawain B has shown significant effectiveness in treating cancer cell lines by inducing these stress responses[2]. Additionally, the study explores how phytochemicals can induce autophagy, either promoting cell survival or leading to programmed cell death type II, depending on the context. For example, compounds like 6-gingerol and shikonin can trigger cytoprotective autophagy or cell death, varying with the type of cancer. This dual role of autophagy is crucial, as it highlights the need to understand the specific cellular environment to effectively use these compounds for cancer therapy. Interestingly, the study notes that some phytochemicals, including capsaicin, primarily induce ER stress-dependent autophagy. Capsaicin, a compound found in chili peppers, has been extensively studied for its anticancer properties. Research has shown that capsaicin can exert multiple biological effects, such as anti-mutagenic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory activities, which contribute to its potential in cancer prevention and treatment[3]. However, the clinical application of capsaicin faces challenges, including limited clinical trials and inherent difficulties in translating preclinical findings to human treatments[3]. The study from the United Arab Emirates University also underscores the potential of plant extracts used in traditional medicine as sources of novel anticancer phytochemicals. For example, the methanol extract of Polyalthia longifolia (MEP) has shown significant efficacy against prostate cancer by inducing apoptosis through the activation of ER stress pathways[4]. This extract not only inhibited tumor growth in vitro but also demonstrated strong efficacy in an in vivo mouse model, suggesting its potential for clinical use[4]. Despite the promising findings, the clinical translation of these phytochemicals remains a significant hurdle. Future research needs to address limitations such as bioavailability, toxicity, and the precise mechanisms of action in different cancer types to make these compounds viable options in cancer therapy. In summary, the study provides valuable insights into how phytochemicals modulate autophagy and ER stress to induce cancer cell death. By building on previous research, such as the anticancer effects of flavokawains and capsaicin, this study highlights the potential of plant-based compounds in developing effective cancer treatments. However, overcoming the challenges of clinical translation is essential to fully realize the therapeutic potential of these promising phytochemicals.



Main Study

1) Phytochemical-mediated modulation of autophagy and endoplasmic reticulum stress as a cancer therapeutic approach.

Published 3rd July, 2024

Related Studies

2) The flavokawains: uprising medicinal chalcones.

3) Capsaicin: A Two-Decade Systematic Review of Global Research Output and Recent Advances Against Human Cancer.

4) Polyalthia longifolia Extract Triggers ER Stress in Prostate Cancer Cells Concomitant with Induction of Apoptosis: Insights from In Vitro and In Vivo Studies.

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