Aloe Vera, also described as the wonder plant, is a plant species belonging to the genus Aloe. Aloe Vera is derived from an Arabic word, Alloeh which means a shining bitter substance and Vera is a Latin word which means true.
It grows in the tropical climates and is well known for its agricultural and medicinal properties. Aloe Vera extracts are widely used as flavoring agents in foods (approved by the FDA, Food and Drug Administration), cosmetics and for decorative purposes.
Due to the several therapeutic properties and diverse health benefits that it provides, Aloe Vera has been a subject of research in many scientific studies.
Many of the anti-cancer agents used today are derived from naturally occurring sources.
Aloe Vera is known to contain phytochemicals. This property has attracted the attention of scientists working on cancer research all over the world. This article describes a study which was published in the Asia Pacific Journal in July, 2015.
The study highlighted the activity of Aloe Vera extracts in inhibiting the proliferation of breast and cervical cancer cells and its synergistic activity with Cisplatin (Cisplatin is an effective chemotherapy agent).
The breast contains lobules that make milk and thin ducts called ducts that carry milk. Thus breast cancer is the development of cancerous tumors from the breast cells. Breast cancer is of two types depending upon the site of occurrence.
One is ductal carcinoma (develops from the guts) and lobular carcinoma (develops from the lobules). According to a research conducted in the U.S. by the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women after skin cancer.
The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. It leads from the uterus to the vagina (birth canal). Cervical cancer develops from the cervix.
The two types of cervical cancer are squamous cell carcinoma (develops in the thin flat cells that line the cervix) and adenocarcinoma (develops in cells of the cervix that make mucous and other fluids). It can usually be cured if detected and treated in the early stages.
What happened in the study?
Scientists in this research study worked to determine the cytotoxic potential of Aloe Vera extracts, alone or in combination with commonly used chemotherapy agent Cisplatin, in human Breast cancer cells (MCF-7) and Cervical cancer cells (HeLa).
The study involved various tests like cell cycle analysis, Nuclear morphological changes and flow cytometry in order to evaluate the anti-proliferative activity of Aloe Vera Crude Extracts (ALOE VERA EXTRACT), alone or in combination with cisplatin on human breast cancer cells, cervical cancer cells and lymphocytes (isolated from healthy nonsmoking donors.
What were the results of the study?
According to the results obtained:
Aloe vera extract showed cytotoxic activity (creating toxic conditions that kill cells) on the cancer-causing cells. However, no cytotoxic activity was observed on lymphocytes that were isolated from healthy donors indicating the safe toxic property of aloe vera extract.
Another important result was that aloe vera extract induced cell death in the cancer-causing cells. The untreated cells were compared with the aloe vera extract-treated cells.
Various changes in the cell structure were also observed in cancer cells that were treated with Aloe vera extract.
Aloe vera also arrested the cancerous cells in various cell cycle phases thus preventing them from growing.
When the effect of Aloe vera extract is determined in combination with Cisplatin they work synergistically to inhibit the growth of cancer-causing cells.
How did this occur?
Aloe Vera contains various chemical compounds that contribute to its anti-cancer properties. Aloe Vera exhibits anti-tumor activity, which may be due to direct or indirect effects.
The indirect effect of Aloe Vera is due to stimulation of the immune system whereas the direct effect is exhibited by anthraquinones (these are organic phenolic compounds found in plants and are known to exhibit anticancer activity.
Apart from antraquinines, Aloin is another derivative of Aloe Vera that is found to be carcinogenic in nature. Aloin inhibits the growth of tumor hence serving as a potential drug candidate in prevention of cancer.
Cisplatin is known to have various anticancer properties. However according to some research studies cisplatin causes toxicity in the kidney when administered in cancer patients.Which in turn may lead to other problems like electrolyte imbalance etc.
Prokindin is an ingredient found in Aloe Vera that can reduce cisplatin nephrotoxicity. An experiment conducted to confirm the action of this Aloe Vera derivative revealed that Prokindin inhibited the nephrotoxicity of cisplatin without affecting its anti-cancer activity. The results thus confirmed that using
Aloe Vera overcomes the side effects of cisplastin.
What does this mean?
All the results obtained lead us to the conclusion that Aloe Vera may be used as an effective anti-cancer agent and in increasing the efficacy of conventional drugs like Cisplatin. This promotes the development of more and more naturally occurring plant sources that can serve as novel agents in cancer therapy.
Read paper at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25854386