Natural Compounds can fight HER2 positive breast cancer

Natural Compounds can fight HER2 positive breast cancer

Three natural compounds, psoralen, curcumin and anthocyanins, each seem to have strong actions against HER2 positive breast cancer.

1. Psoralen has anti-HER2 activity

Psoralen is a natural bioactive compound found in foods such as figs, parsley and celery. Psoralea corylifolia is an important plant in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Its seeds contain high levels of psoralen.

Now, scientists from Duke Medical Centre in Carolina have found that it can block the signaling pathway of the Her2 receptor, which is overproduced in 15-25 per cent of breast cancers and other cancers involving tumours such as ovarian and colorectal (Feb 14, 2014; PLOS ONE)

If Her2 is overproduced, the result is an aggressive cancer and uncontrolled cell growth. Human Epidermal Growth factor 2 is a very important oncoprotein.

Wonder drug Herceptin can act against this growth but tends to run out of steam after 2 years. That does not seem to be the case for Psoralen.

Psoralen has long been Proven to disrupt DNA replication and cause apoptosis (cancer cell death) when activated by UV light. It is widely used in the treatment of psoriasis, eczema and surface T-Cell lymphoma. This new action was unexpected but confirmed by the scientists led by Dr. Neil L. Spector Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke.

Psoralen is also known as psoralene and is a leading compound in the group of natural compounds called furocoumarins. It is related to coumarin.

2. Curcumin inhibits HER2 positive breast cancer

Curcumin has been shown to have two major benefits in Her-2 cancers. Firstly, curcumin enhanced the efficacy of chemotherapy by tailoring p65NF-κB-p300 cross-talk in favor of p53-p300 for breast cancer(1).

Secondly, it decreases HER2 oncoprotein, and phosphorylation of Akt. It also reduces expression of a number of oncogenes(2).

In a 2012 study from scientists in Taiwan, there was direct comparison between curcumin and Herceptin and Taxol, both in vitro and in vivo in mice.

Curcumin can significantly increase the efficacy of low doses of Herceptin. They actually have a synergistic effect. This was especially marked in ER+, HER2+ breast cancers.

However, where high doses of Herceptin were used, curcumin made little difference.

What was of great significance was where curcumin was used when Herceptin had stopped working or the breast cancer was resistant to Herceptin. Curcumin carried on working.

Finally, in terms of tumour size Herceptin was shown to reduce tumour size by 86.7% while curcumin alone reduced Her2 positive breast cancer tumours by 76.7%.

Curcumin should be taken with fats and oils (for example, with Extra Virgin Olive oil, or in cooking) and piperine, the active ingredient of black pepper. 3.2 gms per day is the dose recommended by Professor Aggarwal of MD Anderson.

See also ‘The effect of curcumin on breast cancer cells’(3).

3. Black rice anthocyanins inhibit HER2 positive breast cancer

In a massive screening exercise in 2013 by Chinese scientists through the New Jersey Medical School(4) studying natural compounds with HER2 positive breast cancer, several emerged with potential: ‘peonidin-3-glucoside and cyaniding-3-glucoside, are both extracts from black rice. They inhibit the phospho-HER2 and phospho-AKT and were confirmed to induce HER2-psotive breast cancer cells apoptosis both in vitro and in vivo. Peonidin-3-glucoside and cyaniding-3-glucoside treatments significantly reduced the tumor size and volume in vivo compared to the control group’.

To put this in context, “Just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants,” said Zhimin Xu, Associate Professor at the Department of Food Science at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge, La., who reported on separate research on black rice bran from rice grown in the Southern states of America.

Go To: Bioactive Natural Compounds fight Breast Cancer, including TNBC



1. Sen GS, Mohanty S, Hossain DM, Bhattacharyya S, Banerjee S, Chakraborty J, et al. Curcumin enhances the efficacy of chemotherapy by tailoring p65NFκB-p300 cross-talk in favor of p53-p300 in breast cancer. J Biol Chem. 2011;286:42232–42247
2. Lai HW, Chien SY, Kuo SJ, Tseng LM, Lin HY, Chi CW, et al. The potential utility of curcumin in the treatment of HER-2-overexpressed breast cancer: an in vitro and in vivo comparison study with herceptin. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:486568.

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