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Research Faculty

Is there a natural cure for cancer?

Author cupharmacy | Publish Date June 22, 2015

If there is a natural cure for cancer, it may come from the laboratory of Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and co-leader Cancer Prevention & Control Program at the CU Cancer Center. Agarwal has built a career dissecting the molecules inside natural products such as milk thistle, grape seed extract and bitter melon.

“The whole idea here is whether there are modalities people use in their life, for different reasons, that could be useful in slowing the growth of cancer,” Agarwal says. “If we try to do a study without knowing the mechanism of how a product works, you can spend many millions of dollars and you don’t know what you’re going to get out of it. We ask if these things are good in preclinical studies in test tubes and experimental animals, then go from there.”

nature 3 webFor example, Agarwal writes papers with titles like, “Grape seed extract targets mitochondrial electron transport chain complex III and induces oxidative and meta­bolic stress leading to cytoprotective autophagy and apoptotic death in human head and neck cancer cells” and “Silibinin inhibits aberrant lipid metabolism, proliferation and emergence of androgen-independence in prostate cancer cells via primarily targeting the sterol response element binding protein 1.”

Don’t worry. You won’t be tested on comprehension. What these papers show is Agarwal’s appreciation that it will be impossible to prove that natural products treat cancer until we can show how they treat cancer. What does grape seed extract do? It messes up the mitochondria of head and neck cancer cells. What does the chemical silibinin, derived from milk thistle, do? It keeps prostate cancers from burning fat and also from losing their dependence on androgen.

Proving these mechanisms eventually helps to make the case for clinical trials in humans to actually test these treatments. Dr. Agarwal is currently building the case for clinical trials for grape seed extract to treat the watch-and-wait situations of prostate cancer with rising PSA and also colorectal cancer in which polyps have been surgically removed.

The science is solid. Time will tell if these chemicals that work so well in the lab also work in human cancer patients.

To read the full article that appeared in the June 19th edition of Colorado Cancer blog  http://www.coloradocancerblogs.org/is-there-a-natural-cure-for-cancer/