ATLANTA - Scientists at Georgia State University have
found that whole ginger extract has promising cancer-preventing
activity in prostate cancer. The first of its kind study looks at the
anti-cancer properties of ginger as a whole, rather than that of
individual compounds found in the plant.
The lab of Ritu Aneja, associate professor of biology,
found that the ginger extract had significant effects in stopping the
growth of cancer cells, as well as in inducing cell death in a spectrum
of prostate cancer cells. The research appears online via FirstView in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Most importantly, in animal studies, the extract did not show significant toxicity to normal tissues, such as bone marrow.
"We found very good tumor regression by up to 60 percent, and no toxicity whatsoever" Aneja said.
While much research has been performed on ginger's
anti-cancer properties, Aneja's lab takes a more holistic approach when
it comes to investigating the types of molecules involved.
"We believe that it is not any individual compound that
is solely responsible for the extract's anti-cancer properties' Aneja
said. "It's an interplay of components that is synergistic."
That makes it possible for scientists to use a much
smaller amount of extract to take advantage whole ginger extract's
beneficial properties than would be required if a single chemical was
used, Aneja said.
In looking at the data, a human would have to consume
only about 3½ ounces of whole ginger extract in a daily diet to
get the beneficial effects.
Aneja's lab seeks to find natural, non-toxic ways to
combat cancer using kinder, gentler drugs as well as plant compounds,
as current approaches cause major and debilitating side effects.
When beneficial activities are discovered in plant
extracts, it takes a lot of work to unravel what chemical compounds in
the extract actually provide the preventative effect, or kill cancer
"Although it might seem easy to work with plant extracts, it is not so,
because there are zillions of compounds and other complex derivatives
in there, and we don't know which ones are the good ones" she said.
"Moreover, the compounds we are seeking to identify may be low in
abundance, but they may be very important and cannot be disregarded."
Aneja has mentored numerous undergraduate students in
research. The research into whole ginger extract started with the work
of a persistent, dedicated undergrad, Vibhuti 'Simran' Sharma, now an
environmental chemist for the Southern Company.
"I did a lot of background research, and found several
published papers on ginger, but discovered that there was nothing much
done on the whole extract, especially in prostate cancer - a slow
growing, long-latency cancer amenable to chemopreventive strategies",
Sharma said. "Most of the literature focused on only one compound found
Aneja combines guidance with independent exploration to allow
undergraduate students to learn on their own in a stimulating and
motivational environment. Sharma learned more about techniques and
protocols, and took it upon herself to turn three pounds of ginger into
the extract for the study.
It was a process of trial and error for Sharma, as she initially had problems getting the extract to freeze dry.
"It turns from ice into a solid, but it kept going into a liquid," she said. "It took me three weeks to get what I wanted."
She experimented with prostate, breast and cervical cancer cells, and
found that most cells responded well to the extract. Aneja's lab took
the research further in prostate cancer, and today, even though Sharma
has graduated, she is still assisting Aneja's lab, helping to make more
whole ginger extract, for further fractionation and efficacy studies,
that are ongoing.
"I never knew it could get so big," Sharma said. "It's
unbelievable. It's great being able to say that I was just an undergrad
when I started this research, and now it's being published just a year
after I graduated. I take a lot of pride in it, but it would not be
possible without the help from everyone in the lab."
The research team included Prasanthi Karna, Sharmeen
Chagani, Sushma R. Gundala, Padmashree C.G. Rida, Ghazia Asif, Sharma
and Aneja from Georgia State University, and Meenakshi Gupta from West
Georgia Hospitals in LaGrange, Ga.
research article, 'Anticancer benefits of whole ginger extract in
prostate cancer' appears in the British Journal of Nutrition,
Access the complete article here
For further information please contact:
Jeremy Craig, 1-404-413-1357
University Relations, Georgia State University