There are different types of breast cancer based on biological characteristics or gene expression patterns. One of these is triple negative breast cancer, which is characterized by the lack of progesterone receptor (PR), estrogen receptor (ER), and human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER-2). Compared to other types of breast cancer, it often results in poorer outcomes. Additionally, the absence of commonly targeted receptors in triple negative breast cancer cells makes it more difficult to treat.
Most mortality cases in breast cancer patients can be attributed to the metastasis of cancerous cells. This is possible with the help of molecules like matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which induce changes in the microenvironment. MMPs play different roles in different cancer stages. Many breast cancer patients have elevated levels of MMP2 and MMP9. These molecules are involved in the formation of new blood vessels in tumors. Moreover, these are associated with shorter periods of relapse-free survival.
Eugenol is a phenolic compound found in honey and the essential oils of aromatic spices like cloves and cinnamon. Previous studies have shown that it has potent antiseptic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. It also works against colon, liver, prostate, and breast cancer by inhibiting cell growth, triggering cell death, and preventing the formation of new blood vessels. However, there are no prior reports of eugenol's effects on triple negative breast cancer cells.
In this study, which was published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the researchers evaluated the in vitro effects of eugenol on the growth, metastasis, and apoptosis or programmed cell death of triple-negative breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231). They also tested it against HER-2-positive breast cancer, an aggressive form of breast cancer characterized by high levels of HER-2. To determine the effects of eugenol on metastasis, the team evaluated the expression levels of MMP2 and MMP9, as well as an MMP inhibitor. Meanwhile, the degree of apoptosis was based on the expression of caspases, which are genes involved in apoptosis.
The results of the study showed that eugenol inhibited the proliferation of triple negative and HER-2-positive breast cancer cells by up to 76.4 and 68.1 percent, respectively. The eugenol-treated cells also exhibited significant reductions in MMP2 and MMP9 while their expression of pro-apoptotic genes increased.
Overall, the results of this study suggest that eugenol has potential as a natural remedy for triple negative breast cancer, as well as HER-2-positive breast cancer. This is based on the potent anti-proliferative and anti-metastatic properties that it exhibited in vitro.
The following bioactive compounds also have beneficial effects against triple negative breast cancer:
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