Researchers from the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson have reported findings that extract from the Nigella sativa plant suppresses the growth of pancreatic cancer cells. Nigella sativa, used medicinally for centuries in the Middle East and Asia, originates from the common fennel flower. Scientists believe Nigella sativa inhibits the growth of pancreatic cancer cells because of its powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
A constituent of the oil extracted from the Nigella sativa plant is thymoquinone. Hwyda Arafat, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Surgery at the Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University says thymoquinone reduced inflammatory mediators that promote growth and spread of cancer of the pancreas. Nigella sativa, also referred to as fennel flower, nutmeg flower, Roman coriander, blackseed, black caraway, or black onion seed, has also been shown to exhibit anti-cancer properties against colon and prostate cancer.
The researchers measured the effect of Nigella sativa extract on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA). Some of the cancer cells studied were pre-treated with the cytokine TNF-alpha to promote inflammation. The researchers found that Thymoquinone almost completely eradicated the expression of a variety of inflammatory cytokines that promote cancer, including TNF-alpha, interleukin-1beta, interleukin-8, Cox-2 and MCP-1.
NF-kappaB, a protein complex that regulates immunity and stress response, and linked to cancer and other inflammatory diseases, was inhibited by Nigella sativa extract in the study, adding to the findings of the anti-cancer effect of Nigella sativa.
Dr. Arafat says, "These are very exciting and novel results. Not only patients with chronic pancreatitis could benefit from this, but also several other groups with risk of development or recurrence of pancreatic cancer, such as high-risk family members and post-surgical patients."
The scientists say thymoquinone, extracted from the Nigella sativa flower has potent effects that show promise for prevention and treatment of pancreatic cancer. One of the study highlights is that Nigella sativa oil, extracted from the flower is safe if used in moderation, having been used for thousands of years with no reported toxicity, according to Dr. Arafat.
AACR 100th Annual Meeting 2009 in Denver. (Abstract #494)