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Traditional herbal medicine kills pancreatic cancer cells, Jefferson researchers report
Date:5/19/2008

groups to the DNA structure, specifically to blocks of proteins called histones. This acetylation process can be important for genes to be read and translated into proteins. In this case, it could involve the genes that are key to initiating programmed cell death.

We looked at the status of the histones and found surprisingly that thymoquinone increased the acetylation process, Dr. Arafat says. We never anticipated that.

At the same time, adding thymoquinone to pancreatic cancer cells reduced the production and activity of enzymes called histone deacetylases (HDACs), which remove the acetyl groups from the histone proteins, halting the gene transcription process. Dr. Arafat notes that HDAC inhibitors are a hot new class of drugs that interfere with the function of histone deacetylases, and is being studied as a treatment for cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Finding that thymoquinone functions as an HDAC inhibitor, she says, was very remarkable and really exciting.

Pancreatic cancer, the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in this country, takes some 34,000 lives a year. The disease frequently is detected after it has spread and only 4 percent of individuals with pancreatic cancer live for five years after diagnosis.


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Contact: Steve Benowitz
steven.benowitz@jefferson.edu
215-955-5291
Thomas Jefferson University
Source:Eurekalert

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