According to a new study by researchers from the University of South Carolina, a compound commonly found in Chinese herbs can inhibit colon cancer.
The active substance known as emodin occurs naturally in many herbs that are used in China. Experts say that it is particularly plentiful in the Chinese rhubarb and the Japanese knotweed.
Existing treatments for colon cancer are mostly noxious. The maximum tolerated dose for the most favorable clinical response often produces side effects. Scientists have, therefore, been exploring safer therapies.
Scientists in this study, whose findings were published in the American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, said emodin probably helped by lowering the number of tumor-promoting macrophages.
Help against tumor cells
Colon cancer poses a great threat to people around the world, being the third most common type of cancer. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rates it as the third-leading cause of deaths linked to cancer.
The disorder is expected to lead to the death of more than 52,000 people in America this year.
According to study co-author Angela Murphy, Ph.D., diet and lifestyle factors are to be blamed for about 70 percent of cases of colon cancer.
The American Cancer Society lists the risk factors to include obesity, physical inactivity, consuming too much red meat, smoking and alcohol use. Being older than 50 years also increases the risk of a person developing colon cancer.
Apart from confirming emodin’s ability to prevent colon cancer, researchers in this study were also interested in finding out if the anti-carcinogenic qualities were due to effects on immune cells and macrophages in particular.
The team observed that emodin caused a reduction in both the count and size of polyps in a rodent model. Treated animals also showed “lower protumorigenic M2-like macrophages in the colon,” researchers stated.
In addition to roots, emodin is also found in some fruits and vegetables. This research raises hope that eating such daily may help fight colon cancer in humans.
A 2019 study in Cancer Cell International showed the potential of emodin as a safer alternative for the treatment of colon cancer. The natural agent was observed to help by modifying the BCL-2 family of proteins and molecular cell survival pathways.