This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
In research published in PLOS ONE, a ginger compound called 6-shogaol proved far superior to chemotherapy at killing breast cancer stem cells, which are the root of the malignancy. This powerful component of ginger is produced when the spice is dried or cooked. The concentrations required for the effect were non-toxic to noncancerous cells — a profoundly important benefit. Conventional cancer drugs are toxic to noncancerous cells, as well as cancerous cells, a mode of action that perpetrates much harm to the health of cancer patients.
The Critical Problem of Cancer Stem Cells
Cancer stem cells are sometimes called mother cells because they produce the daughter cells that comprise malignant tumors. Although they only constitute between 0.2 and 1 percent of tumors, they are resistant to chemotherapy. Herein lies the danger because stem cells can split off and travel all over the body, forming new tumors. Consequently, when cancer drugs reduce the size of an original tumor and even make it seemingly disappear completely, they have won a battle but have lost the war. As long as any cancer stem cells remain alive, malignancies can recur. Thus, until the stems are eliminated, the disease cannot be cured.
“Cancer stem cells pose a serious obstacle to cancer therapy as they can be responsible for poor prognosis and tumor relapse. To add into the misery, very few chemotherapeutic compounds show promise to kill these cells. Several researchers have shown that cancer stem cells are resistant to paclitaxel, doxorubicin, 5-fluorouracil, and platinum drugs. CSCs are thus an almost unreachable population in tumors for chemotherapy. Therefore any compound that shows promise towards cancer stem cells is a highly desirable step towards cancer treatment and should be followed up for further development,” the authors wrote.
Comparison Between Ginger and Chemotherapy Drug Taxol
While the study showed 6-shogaol attacked breast cancer cells through several biological pathways, the most amazing discovery came when the compound was compared to the chemotherapy agent taxol. The drug killed cancer cells in a one-dimensional single layer model; however, it had no effect on a real-world three-dimensional spherical model, which represents a typical tumor comprised of cancer cells and a tiny proportion of stem cells. Conversely, 6-shogaol was effective against both the single layer and spherical models. Moreover, even when the dose of taxol was increased, 6-shogaol proved 10,000 times better at destroying the cancer cells and cancer stem cells.
Superiority of Dietary Agents to Conventional Cancer Treatment
The side effects of chemotherapy are well known, but many people are unaware that radiation therapy, another conventional cancer treatment, actually dramatically reduces the likelihood of a cancer cure. A 2012 study found that when breast cancer stem cells are exposed to the treatment, they are up to 30 times more likely to form tumors. While radiation reduces the size of a tumor, it gives a false impression the treatment is working. In reality, it raises the proportion of highly malignant cells to benign cells in a tumor.
Scientists are finding promising cancer-fighting properties not only in ginger but also in compounds in turmeric, green tea and watercress. When you factor in the adverse health effects of chemotherapy and radiation, along with the positive health side effects of dietary agents, the superiority of the natural means of fighting cancer is overwhelmingly evident.