Traditional Chinese medicine shows promise in treating lung cancer

The chemical berberine, found in the root of barberry (pictured above), is said to have health-promoting properties.

The natural compound berberine, found in plants like goldenseal and barberry, shows promise for treating lung disease.

According to a recent study, the natural compound berberine, found in plants like goldenseal and barberry, inhibits the growth of lung cancer cells in the laboratory. It also reduces airway inflammation and reduces damage to healthy lung cells exposed to toxins from cigarette smoke.

Approximately 1.8 million lung cancer deaths are reported each year, making it the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Chronic inflammation increases the risk of lung cancer and other disorders, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

“Berberine has shown therapeutic benefits for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We wanted to explore its potential to suppress lung cancer and reduce inflammation,” says lead researcher Dr Kamal Dua, senior lecturer in pharmacy at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

Doctor Kamal Dua

Dr. Kamal Dua in the UTS lab. Credit: Barnaby Downes/UTS

In a study recently published in the journal Pharmacy, the impact of berberine on non-small cell lung cancer was assessed. It demonstrates that berberine has significant anti-cancer activity, suppressing cancer cell growth in vitro.

By assessing tumor-associated gene mRNA levels and protein expression levels, the potential mechanism of action for anti-cancer efficacy was identified. He demonstrated that berberine regulates proteins involved in cancer cell migration and proliferation while upregulating genes known to decrease tumor growth.

The study follows research conducted by Dr. Dua that was recently published in the journal Antioxidants and demonstrated that berberine can inhibit oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and slow cellular senescence caused by cigarette smoke extract in laboratory-grown healthy human lung cells.

Professors Phil Hansbro, Brian Oliver, Bikash Manandhar and Keshav Raj Paudel were also part of the research team. International colleagues from Qassim University in Saudi Arabia and the International Medical University of Malaysia also contributed.

Dr. Dua focuses on exploring the healing potential of traditional herbal medicines and how their active compounds work at the cellular level. He has a multi-faceted research background with experience in drug delivery technology, biomedical sciences, immunology and microbiology.

Berberine has a long history of use in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, however, its therapeutic benefits have been limited by its lack of water solubility and intestinal absorption, as well as its toxicity at higher doses. .

To overcome these challenges, Dr. Dua developed the use of liquid crystalline nanoparticles, an advanced drug delivery system that encapsulates berberine in tiny, soluble, biodegradable polymer beads to improve safety and efficacy.

Decades of research have shown that cigarette smoke is toxic to lung cells, causing airway inflammation and accelerating diseases such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

Researchers found that berberine suppressed the generation of inflammatory chemicals, called reactive oxygen species, which cause damaging effects on cells. It also modulated genes involved in inflammation, oxidative stress and reduced premature cell senescence.

Dr. Dua is now in discussion and working closely with Sydney-based companies to take this research to the next level and identify the best formulation and delivery system for these nanoparticles so they can be translated to the bedside of the patient.

References: “Evaluation of cytotoxic activity and anti-migratory effect of berberine-phytantriol liquid crystalline nanoparticle formulation on non-small cell lung cancer in vitro” by Abdullah M. Alnuqaydan, Abdulmajeed G. Almutary, Mohd Azam, Bikash Manandhar, Geena Hew Suet Yin, Lee Li Yen, Thiagarajan Madheswaran, Keshav Raj Paudel, Philip M. Hansbro, Dinesh Kumar Chellappan and Kamal Dua, May 24, 2022, Pharmacy.
DOI: 10.3390/pharmaceutics14061119

“Attenuation of cigarette smoke-induced oxidative stress, senescence and inflammation by berberine-loaded liquid crystalline nanoparticles: an in vitro study in 16HBE and RAW264.7 cells” by Keshav Raj Paudel, Nisha Panth, Bikash Manandhar, Sachin Kumar Singh, Gaurav Gupta, Peter R. Wich, Srinivas Nammi, Ronan MacLoughlin, Jon Adams, Majid Ebrahimi Warkiani, Dinesh Kumar Chellappan, Brian G. Oliver, Philip M. Hansbro and Kamal Dua, April 28, 2022, Antioxidants.
DOI: 10.3390/antiox11050873