Those who know about cancer must have heard about a drug, Paclitaxel, which is purified and isolated from the bark of the Pacific yew tree, a type of gymnosperms. Paclitaxel has become prevalent as an anti-cancer drug in recent years due to its inhibitory effects on cancer. Recognized as “a star” among chemotherapeutical drugs, it has been widely used in the clinical treatment of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, some head and neck cancer.
Paclitaxel accelerates cancer cell metastasis
Paclitaxel is a double-edged sword. The latest scientific research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America shows that Paclitaxel enhances the resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapeutical drugs and thus promote cancer cell metastasis while it kills cancer cells by releasing toxicity. The team of Tsonwin Hai, the Biochemistry and Pharmacology professor of the Ohio State University, injected Paclitaxel into the mouse who is given breast cancer cells and found cancer cells spreading into its lung increased in spite of original tumor shrinking.
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How does Paclitaxel promote cancer cell metastasis?
As study goes further, they found that Paclitaxel promotes cancer cells metastasize mainly by two mechanisms.
Firstly, it supports cancer cell angiogenesis. Study found that the mouse has a high level of gene expression related to angiogenesis and a low level of gene expression related to anti-angiogenesis when it is treated with Paclitaxel. Angiogenesis is an essential condition for tumor proliferation and metastasis. Tumor tissue needs numerous nutrients supplied by new blood vascular for its continuous growth. Meanwhile, tumor cells can enter the new blood vascular and spread by blood circulation.
Secondly, it changes lung microenvironment. The tumor microenvironment increases obviously in density and it becomes more suitable for cancer cells to survive, resulting in a higher possibility of tumor cell metastasis into lung.
Another study has strengthened the results
Several months ago, a study published in Science Translational Medicine by researchers of Einstein College of Medicine, scientific and research institute, reports that the tumor microenvironment of metastasis increases in density and the rate of complete response from patients increases accordingly, while survival rate of patients fails to increase. Since Paclitaxel kills cancer cells, body presents less obvious symptoms. However, as it promotes cancer cell metastasis at the same time, the disease never gets less serious.
Patients suffer from side effects of chemotherapeutical drugs
It is not surprising that the use of chemotherapeutical drugs is accompanied with serious side effects like severe pain, nausea and vomiting, kidney damage, liver damage, cancer cell resistance, and so on. Patients have to tolerate the pain during cancer treatment because there is no good way to reduce the side effects. Patients will take a great risk as Paclitaxel is found to have side effects of promoting cancer cell metastasis. However, ginsenosides may substitute Paclitaxel as a promising drug without side effects.
There are naturally anti-cancer components
Ginsenosides are active ingredients discovered in Araliaceae plants like American ginseng and Panax ginseng in 1960s. As research goes in depth, it is found that the more highly active ingredients are the sub-metabolites of ginsenosides, which are called rare ginsenosides. More than 60 rare ginsenosides are currently isolated. Rh2 and Rg3, both of which are well-known on the market of anti-cancer drugs, are actually rare ginsenosides.
Studies from scientists show that rare ginsenosides induce cancer cell apoptosis, inhibit angiogenesis, improve the sensitivity of chemotherapeutical drugs, reduce tumor cell resistance to drugs, reduce side effects of chemotherapeutical drugs, relieve cancer pain, enhance immune system, and so on.
Above efficacy makes it possible to overcome side effects of chemotherapeutical drugs. Rare ginsenosides have been used to assist in regular therapy like radiotherapy, surgery and target therapy. In particular, combined with chemotherapeutical drugs, rare ginsenosides increase efficacy and reduce toxicity.