Ginger raises new hope in fight against ovarian cancer
The Guardian, Tuesday 18 April 2006
Common ginger may be the next weapon in the battle against ovarian cancer, scientists have suggested. Laboratory studies have shown that powdered root ginger could be as effective as chemotherapy for treating ovarian cancer.
When research-grade ginger – which is free of additives – was applied to ovarian cancer cells in Petri dishes it proved to be as effective as platinum-based chemotherapies for stopping cell growth.
The US scientists behind the research are particularly excited because ginger seems to offer a two-pronged attack on cancer cells: it makes them commit suicide, known as apoptosis, and self-digest, known as autophagy. It offers the hope that when one form of attack starts to fail the other will kick in.
“Most ovarian cancer patients develop recurrent disease that eventually becomes resistant to standard chemotherapy – which is associated with resistance to apoptosis,” said Rebecca Liu, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Michigan medical school, where the research was carried out. “If ginger can cause autophagic cell death in addition to apoptosis, it may circumvent resistance to conventional chemotherapy.” The scientists stressed these were preliminary findings.
Ginger is known to ease nausea, and it is being investigated for use to lessen the side-effects of chemotherapy and prevent bowel cancer. But the research into its use to treat ovarian cancer is at an early stage.
“This study doesn’t mean that people should dash down to the supermarket and stockpile ginger,” said Henry Scowcroft of Cancer Research UK. “We still don’t know whether ginger, in any form, can prevent or treat cancers in animals or people. And there is always the possibility that eating lots of ginger or taking ginger supplements might interfere with chemotherapy or be harmful to health.
“Scientists have previously found that ginger extract can stop cancer cells growing in the lab, so it is possible that a chemical found in ginger could form the basis of a new drug. But much more work is needed before we can draw any firm conclusions.” Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common form of the disease among women in the UK, with around 7,000 cases diagnosed every year. US research earlier this year suggested that the spicy component of jalapeno peppers, capsaicin, shrinks prostate tumors in mice.