Neem plant compound could suppress development of prostate cancer: Singapore study

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

NUS PhD candidate Zhang Jingwen and principal investigator associate professor Gautam Sethi.
NUS PhD candidate Zhang Jingwen and principal investigator associate professor Gautam Sethi.

Related tags: Cancer

Nimbolide, a bioactive terpenoid compound derived from Azadirachta indica, more commonly known as the neem plant, could reduce the size of prostate tumours by up to 70 per cent and suppress its spread or metastasis by half, say Singapore academics.

A team of international researchers led by Associate Professor Gautam Sethi from the Department of Pharmacology at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS) reported the findings following a 12-week study on mice.

Prostate cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers worldwide. However, currently available therapies for metastatic prostate cancer are only marginally effective, said the researchers, writing in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling​.

"Although the diverse anti-cancer effects of nimbolide have been reported in different cancer types, its potential effects on prostate cancer initiation and progression have not been demonstrated in scientific studies.

"In this research, we have demonstrated that nimbolide can inhibit tumour cell viability - a cellular process that directly affects the ability of a cell to proliferate, grow, divide, or repair damaged cell components - and induce programmed cell death in prostate cancer cells,"​ said Associate Professor Sethi.

Cell invasion and migration are key steps during tumour metastasis. The NUS-led study revealed that nimbolide can significantly suppress cell invasion and migration of prostate cancer cells, suggesting its ability to reduce tumour metastasis, without exhibiting any significant adverse effects.

“This is possible because a direct target of nimbolide in prostate cancer is glutathione reductase, an enzyme which is responsible for maintaining the antioxidant system that regulates the STAT3 gene in the body. The activation of the STAT3 gene has been reported to contribute to prostate tumour growth and metastasis,” he added. “We have found that nimbolide can substantially inhibit STAT3 activation and thereby abrogating the growth and metastasis of prostate tumour."

Traditional medicine

The neem plant belongs to the mahogany tree family that is originally native to India and the Indian sub-continent. It has been part of traditional Asian medicine for centuries and is typically used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Today, neem leaves and bark have been incorporated into many personal care products such as soaps, toothpaste, skincare and even dietary supplements.

The team is now looking to embark on a genome-wide screening or to perform a large-scale study of proteins to analyse the side-effects and determine other potential molecular targets of nimbolide. They are also keen to investigate the efficacy of combinatory regimen of nimbolide and approved drugs such as docetaxel and enzalutamide for future prostate cancer therapy.

The work was carried out in collaboration with Professor Goh Boon Cher of Cancer Science Institute of Singapore at NUS, Professor Hui Kam Man of National Cancer Centre Singapore and Professor Ahn Kwang Seok of Kyung Hee University.

Source: Antioxidants & Redox Signaling

2016; 24 (11): 575 DOI: 10.1089/ars.2015.6418

“Nimbolide-Induced Oxidative Stress Abrogates STAT3 Signaling Cascade and Inhibits Tumor Growth in Transgenic Adenocarcinoma of Mouse Prostate Model”

Authors: ​Gautam Sethi, et al.

Related topics: Research, Botanicals

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