Pancreatic cancer may be treatable with tree extract

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WITH no effective treatments currently available, there is an urgent and important need to develop new drugs to treat pancreatic cancer. After carrying out tests in lab cells and mice, researchers propose that nimbolide, a natural extract from the leaves of the neem tree, could meet such a need.
Researchers suggest neem leaves show promise as a treatment for pancreatic cancer.
In the journal Scientific Reports, a team of biomedical scientists at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) reports how nimbolide can stop pancreatic cancer growing and spreading without harming normal, healthy cells.
Senior and corresponding author Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy, an associate professor in TTUHSC El Paso’s Center of Emphasis in Cancer, says:
“The promise nimbolide has shown is amazing, and the specificity of the treatment towards cancer cells over normal cells is very intriguing.”
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the US and is projected to become the second leading cause by 2020. It is the only major cancer, note the authors, where fewer than 6 out of every 100 patients survive more than 5 years after diagnosis. The main reason pancreatic cancer is so deadly is because it is very difficult to diagnose in the early stages, before it has started to spread and invade surrounding tissue and other organs, which it does very fast.
Consequently, most patients with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed when the disease is in an advanced stage. For them, surgery is rarely an option, underscoring the importance of finding new therapies.
Nimbolide boosts production of reactive oxygen species
Nimbolide is a natural extract derived from the leaves and flowers of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) that is widely used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of human ailments.
Previous studies of nimbolide’s effect in lab cells and animals reveal that nimbolide has a number of anti-cancer properties. The compound interferes with cancer cell signaling pathways that are linked to inflammation, survival, growth, invasion, development of tumor blood vessels and cancer spread, or metastasis.
The new study, which tests nimbolide specifically on pancreatic cancer cell lines and mice, finds the compound is effective in inhibiting cancer growth and metastasis. The researchers found that nimbolide boosts the production of a group of molecules known as reactive oxygen species (ROS), which is known to regulate cell death by apoptosis (self-killing) and autophagy (self-eating).