The standard breast cancer therapies drastically compromise the homeostasis of normal cells, thus limiting their clinical effectiveness, and also have serious side effects. Cancer cells are also becoming increasingly resistant to conventional therapy and multiple drug therapies are now being adopted to deal with this problem. There is thus a renewed interest in traditional plant medicines for use in treating chronic weakening and life threatening conditions and diseases.
Researchers at Stellenbosch University have developed a plant extract from an indigenous plant which has been shown to decrease tumour growth but with only limited cytotoxicity to normal breast epithelial cells in vitro. The extract is effective at inducing apoptosis, but it remains non-toxic in vivo, and results in similar inhibition of tumour growth compared with a Dox treatment group (conventional chemotherapy) and prevented weight-loss in mice over the course of treatment. This extract may prove a novel phyto-therapy as an adjunct remedy with other commercial drugs to assist in reducing proliferation of tumours.
The herbal remedy has potential to reduce proliferation of tumours but without adverse toxicity to normal cells associated with conventional cancer treatments. Plant material were collected, washed, dried and crushed. The extract was then obtained by solvent extraction. Cytotoxicity tests were performed on breast cancer cell lines and healthy cell lines in vitro. When tumour bearing mice were treated with the extract, tumour cells were not only suppressed in their growth but the treated mice also gained weight during the course of the treatment.
Prof Nokwanda P. Makunga, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University.
Prof Anna-Mart Engelbrecht, Department of Physiological Sciences, Stellenbosch University.