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Herbal tea extract backed for breast cancer benefits

By Nathan Gray , 27-Aug-2012
Last updated on 27-Aug-2012 at 14:08 GMT

An extract from herbal tea popular in Pakistan may have benefits for people with breast cancer, according to new lab research.

Herbal tea compounds have long been suggested to have health benefits, with previous research suggesting compounds like epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) in green tea could have benefits for various cancers, including oral cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

However the health benefits of many such teas remain firmly planted in ‘folklore’ with very little evidence to back up the claims of benefit made by ancient and traditional eastern medicine.

But now researchers from Aston University and Russells Hall Hospital, in the UK have found that Fagonia cretica, a type of herbal tea that is popular Pakistan, may offer benefits for women with breast cancer because it possess the rare ability to kill cancer cells without damaging cells or tissue surrounding a tumour.

Writing in the journal PLoS One, the UK-based researchers noted that the plant – sometimes known as Virgon's Mantlem – has been used in herbal teas to help women with breast cancer in rural Pakistan; however the extract has been regarded as a folklore remedy by many others.

Herbal extract

The lab based findings suggest the Fagonia cretica plant, found in arid, desert regions of Pakistan, India, Africa and parts of Europe may however have benefits against the cancer.

Professor Helen Griffith and Professor Amutul Carmichael who lead the study are now aiming to identify which element or elements of the plant are responsible for killing the cancer cells with a view to eventually begin research in people with cancer.

"More research is needed to establish the role of the extract in cancer management and It now needs to be demonstrated that this extract is as effective in killing cancer cells inside the body as it is within laboratory,” said Griffith of Aston University.

Study findings

Griffith and her team’s data revealed ‘for the first time’ that an aqueous extract of Fagonia cretica can bring on cell cycle death via p53-dependent and independent mechanisms, “with activation of the DNA damage response.”

“We also show that FOXO3a is required for activity in the absence of p53,” said the researchers.

“Our findings indicate that Fagonia cretica aqueous extract contains potential anti-cancer agents acting either singly or in combination against breast cancer cell proliferation via DNA damage-induced FOXO3a and p53 expression.”

Source: PLoS One
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040152
“An Aqueous Extract of Fagonia cretica Induces DNA Damage, Cell Cycle Arrest and Apoptosis in Breast Cancer Cells via FOXO3a and p53 Expression”
Authors: Matt Lam, Amtul R. Carmichael, Helen R. Griffiths

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