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Plant substance inhibits cancer stem cells



The plant Ambrosia arborescens grows wild in much of South America and is traditionally used as a medicinal plant. Researchers at the Faculty of Science at Lund University, in collaboration with colleagues in La Paz, Bolivia, have isolated the substance damsin from the plant and studied its effect on cancer stem cells in three different breast cancer cell lines. 

They have also done similar studies with ambrosin, a substance similar to damsin, but produced by chemical means. The results show that both have an effect on cancer stem cells.

“Both the natural substance and the chemically produced substance inhibit the growth and spread of cancer stem cells in breast cancer cell lines,” said Stina Oredsson, Ph.D., professor in Lund’s biological department.

Already at low concentration, both substances inhibit the division and mobility of the cancer cells. This means that the tumor becomes smaller and cell proliferation decreases. 

In their study, published in Plos One, the researchers show that the actual number of cancer stem cells decreases.

Dr. Oredsson emphasized that it is basic research and the results are based on experiments made on cell cultures in the laboratory. At the same time, she believes that the results are a breakthrough in cancer research as it may be the first step toward effective treatment of cancer stem cells, which are believed to cause metastases.

“Different cancer cells have different ability to survive cellular diseases. Cancer stem cells appear to have an inherent resistance to the drug used today — one can call them the most dangerous cancer cells,” Dr. Oredsson said. “Our results can contribute to the development of new drugs against cancer stem cells, but unfortunately it takes a long time from basic research to finished medicine."

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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0184304