Traditional Indian plant medicine may halt breast cancer metastasis

Thursday, June 02, 2011 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: Ayurveda, breast cancer, health news

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(NaturalNews) The reason breast cancer can be a killer isn't because of the lump it forms in a breast -- the danger comes from metastasis, the spread of cancer cells to additional areas of the body, including the bones, brain and other organs. Despite mainstream medicine's treatments with radiation and chemotherapy, metastasis remains a serious, common and virtually untreatable condition. But there's finally some good news from an unexpected -- and ancient -- source.

It turns out that the traditional medicine native to India known as Ayurveda (from the Sanskrit word "ayus," meaning longevity, and "veda," meaning knowledge) may hold the key. Ayurveda medicine, which involves mind/body therapies such as massage and meditation along with herbal and diet therapies, has been practiced since about 1,500 B.C.

Researchers at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta have found that a compound derived from plant roots used in Ayurveda medicine can prevent breast cancer cells from metastasizing. Their study was just published in the International Journal of Cancer.

The Emory scientists tested a compound known as Withaferin A which comes from the roots of Withania somnifera, also known as Ashwagandha, Indian ginseng, Winter cherry, Ajagandha and Kanaje Hindi. The plant is a short shrub in the nightshade family which produces small green flowers and orange-red fruit. Its brown tuberous roots have been used for thousands of years in India for medicinal purposes.

"Most patients who die from cancer die because of metastases, not from the primary tumor," senior author Adam Marcus, PhD, assistant professor of hematology and medical oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and a Georgia Cancer Coalition Scholar, said in a statement to the media. "Our objective was not to find a way to kill cells, but instead, prevent them from migrating and invading other tissues".

In animal experiments with mice, Dr. Marcus and his team concentrated on studying the impact of Withaferin A on breast cancer because the plant compound was known to bind the protein vimentin, a protein that is overproduced in cancer cells, especially those from invasive tumors. Tumors that overproduce vimentin are more likely to metastasize.

Bottom line: the compound from roots used in Indian traditional medicine prevented breast cancer cells from metastasizing in mice. The researchers at Winship Cancer Institute speculated that the root-derived substance could form the basis of regimens aimed at preventing cancer from recurring and spreading. They are planning further tests with breast cancer as well as other types of malignancies.

Editor's note: NaturalNews is opposed to the use of animals in medical experiments that expose them to harm. We present these findings in protest of the way in which they were acquired.

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About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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