Traditional Chinese Medicine shows promise in the treatment of lung cancer

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Barberry Root Herbal Medicine

The chemical berberine, found in barberry root (see above), is said to have health-promoting properties.

The natural compound berberine, found in plants like goldenseal and barberry, shows promise for treating lung diseases.

According to a recent study, the natural substance berberine, which is found in plants such as goldenseal and barberry, inhibits the growth of lung cancer cells in the laboratory. It also decreases airway inflammation and reduces damage to healthy lung cells exposed to toxins from cigarette smoke.

Around 1.8 million lung cancer deaths are reported each year, making lung cancer the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Chronic inflammation increases the risk of lung cancer and other diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

“Berberine has demonstrated therapeutic benefits in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We were keen to explore its potential for suppressing lung cancer and reducing inflammation,” says lead researcher Dr. Kamal Dua, a Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

dr  Kamal Dua

dr Kamal Dua in the UTS lab. Credit: Barnaby Downes/UTS

In a study recently published in the journal pharmacythe effect of berberine on non-small cell lung cancer was examined. It shows that berberine has significant anti-cancer activity by suppressing the growth of cancer cells in vitro.

By evaluating mRNA levels of tumor-associated genes and protein expression levels, the potential mechanism of action for anticancer efficacy was identified. Berberine has been shown to regulate proteins involved in cancer cell migration and proliferation while upregulating genes known to decrease tumor growth.

The study is a follow-up to Dr. Dua-led research recently published in the journal antioxidants and showed that berberine can inhibit oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and slow cigarette smoke extract-induced cellular aging in laboratory-grown human healthy lung cells.

Professors Phil Hansbro, Brian Oliver, Bikash Manandhar and Keshav Raj Paudel were also members of the research team. International colleagues from Qassim University in Saudi Arabia and the International Medical University in Malaysia also contributed.

dr Dua’s focus is on exploring the healing potential of traditional medicinal plants and the effects of their active ingredients on the cellular level. He has a diverse research background with experience in drug delivery technology, biomedical sciences, immunology and microbiology.

Berberine has long been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, but its therapeutic usefulness has been limited by its lack of water solubility and absorption in the gut, and its toxicity at higher doses.

To overcome these challenges, Dr. Dua developed the use of liquid crystalline nanoparticles, an advanced drug delivery system that encapsulates berberine in tiny soluble and biodegradable polymer beads to improve safety and efficacy.

Decades of research has shown that cigarette smoke is toxic to lung cells, causing airway inflammation and accelerating diseases like cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

The researchers found that berberine suppressed the formation of inflammatory chemicals called reactive oxygen species, which have harmful effects on cells. It also modulated genes involved in inflammation, oxidative stress and reduced premature cellular aging.

dr Dua is currently in discussions and working closely with Sydney-based companies to take this research to the next level and identify the best formulation and delivery system for these nanoparticles to enable them to be used at the bedside.

References: “Evaluation of the Cytotoxic Activity and Anti-Migration Effect of Berberine-Phytantriol Liquid Crystalline Nanoparticle Formulation on Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer In Vitro” by Abdullah M. Alnuqaydan, Abdulmajeed G. Almutary, Mohd Azam, Bikash Manandhar, Geena Hew Suet Yin, Lee Li Yen, Thiagarajan Madheswaran, Keshav Raj Paudel, Philip M. Hansbro, Dinesh Kumar Chellappan, and Kamal Dua, May 24, 2022, Pharmacy.
DOI: 10.3390/pharmaceutics14061119

“Mitigation of cigarette smoke-induced oxidative stress, aging and inflammation by berberine-loaded liquid-crystalline nanoparticles: in vitro study in 16HBE and RAW264.7 cells” by Keshav Raj Paudel, Nisha Panth, Bikash Manandhar, Sachin Kumar Singh, Gaurav Gupta, Peter R. Wich, Srinivas Nammi, Ronan MacLoughlin, Jon Adams, Majid Ebrahimi Warkiani, Dinesh Kumar Chellappan, Brian G. Oliver, Philip M. Hansbro, and Kamal Dua, April 28, 2022, antioxidants.
DOI: 10.3390/antiox11050873

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