Common Spice May Fight Breast Cancer

A new study reveals that cardamom, a common spice native to India and used in many cuisines around the world, may help defeat one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. Researcher Patricia Mendonca, a professor in the biology department at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, says that cardamonin, a natural compound found in the spice and in other plants as well, can destroy triple-negative breast cancer cells. Cardamonin also targeted a specific gene which helps cancer elude the immune system in experiments using human cells.

According to Study Finds, between 10 to 15% of breast cancer cells are triple-negative which means that patients lack the receptors for estrogen and progesterone and make little to no HER2 protein. This makes hormone therapy treatment ineffective for treating tumors. Triple-negative cancers are also more aggressive, making them more deadly.

“It has been challenging to develop targeted therapy for triple-negative breast cancer that is safe and effective at the same time,” said Mendonca in a news release. “Because of this, there is a critical need to investigate medicinal plants as a new way to combat this cancer.”

Mendonca said that cardamonin has been “used for centuries as a spice and, more recently, as a supplement. Our research shows that cardamonin holds potential for improving cancer therapy without as many side effects as other chemotherapeutic agents.”

The researchers used two genetically different triple-negative human cell lines. One was drawn from European or Caucasian women and the other from African American ancestry. They found that the cardamonin treatment caused a dose-dependent decrease in the cell viability in both lines. However, it only inhibited PD-L1 expression in the Caucasian line and not in the African American cells, meaning that cells from different races may respond differently to cardamonin. PD-L1 stands for programmed cell death ligand 1 and is a protein that acts like a brake to keep the immune system under control. In patients with breast cancer, PD-L1 is too active, helping the disease bypass the human immune system, says Study Finds.

“This is the first study to describe cardamonin’s inhibitory effect on the expression of PD-L1, which is relevant for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer,” said Mendonca in the news release. “These findings add support to other research that has shown difference in the tumor microenvironment between African and non-African Americans.”

The researchers plan to perform more studies to further pursue the efficacy of this compound before it is tested in people. They also want to investigate other anti-cancer properties in cardamonin.

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