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Karmanos Researchers Report Enhanced Chemosensitivity of Pancreatic Cancer Cells by Black Seed Component

SAN DIEGO, April 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute researchers today presented, at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in San Diego, CA, the potential benefits of Thymoquinone (TQ), a compound present in the oil of black seeds (Nigella sativa), in treating pancreatic cancer.

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For centuries, these black seeds have been consumed in Asia, Africa and the Middle East to promote health and fight disease. TQ, an active component of the seeds, has been isolated for its promise as a chemopreventative agent. Pancreatic cancer cells currently have a high degree of inherent and acquired chemoresistance to standard chemotherapy agents Gemcitabine and/or Oxaliplatin, making these drugs only moderately effective.

"Our goal with this study was to increase the effectiveness of current pancreatic cancer treatments with a naturally occurring substance," said Sanjeev Banerjee, Ph.D., researcher, working under the leadership of Fazlul Sarkar, Ph.D., professor of pathology at the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University. "We also explored the molecular mechanisms associated with TQ to promote better therapeutic outcomes."

Drs. Banerjee and Sarkar, along with Karmanos researchers Ramzi Mohammad, Ph.D. and Zhiwei Wang, Ph.D., pre-treated pancreatic tumor cells possessing different molecular signatures (HPAC, BxPC-3, Panc-1 and MDA Panc-28, COLO 357, L3.6pl), with TQ prior to administering Gemcitabine and Oxaliplatin. They found that TQ significantly enhanced the chemosensitivity of the tumor cells, making the Gemcitabine and Oxaliplatin agents more effective in treating the cancer. The TQ pre-treatment improved the drugs' effect on promoting cancer cell death and halting tumor cell growth.

Karmanos researchers also discovered at a molecular level, TQ down regulated the normally active NF-B transcription factor and several of its downstream effector genes responsible for metastasis and cell invasion. NF-B is involved in cellular responses to stimuli such as stress, free radicals, ultraviolet irradiation and bacterial or viral antigens. It also plays a key role in regulating the immune response to infection, and is instrumental in the development of many chronic diseases, including cancer. These results suggest that an important molecular target could be down regulated by TQ in reversing chemoresistance, as well as the inhibition of invasion and metastasis of pancreatic cancer.

Further research is currently underway at Karmanos to obtain better clues for TQ's efficacy in future Phase I/II clinical trials. Thus, the research team at Karmanos is actively collaborating with physicians both at the Karmanos Cancer Center and the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas for assessing the clinical utility of TQ.

About the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute

Located in mid-town Detroit, MI, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is one of 39 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Caring for more than 6,000 new patients annually on a budget of $216 million, conducting more than 700 cancer-specific scientific investigation programs and clinical trials, the Karmanos Cancer Institute is among the nation's best cancer centers. Through the commitment of 1,000 staff, including nearly 300 faculty members, and supported by thousands of volunteer and financial donors, the Institute strives to prevent, detect and eradicate all forms of cancer. John C. Ruckdeschel, M.D., is the Institute's president and chief executive officer. For more information call 1-800-KARMANOS or go to

American Association for Cancer Research

The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field.

SOURCE Karmanos Cancer Institute
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