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The Future of Using Ginsenoside Rg5 in Breast Cancer Treatment

Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. Breast cancer may be suspected if a woman notices one or more of these alarming signs: a lump in the breast, a change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid coming from the nipple, or a red scaly patch of skin. Doctors usually ask her if she is heavy drunker since drinking alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and the risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. The doctors always ask the patients about their past history because there are other risk factors that are associated with breast cancer. For example, gaining weight after menopause can also increase a woman’s risk. Lack of exercise has been linked to breast cancer by the American Institute for Cancer Research. Women who have not had children or who had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk overall. Some studies suggest that breastfeeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, especially if it’s continued for 1½ to 2 years. Some birth control methods such as oral contraceptives, birth control implants, intrauterine devices, skin patches, vaginal rings might increase breast cancer risk. There is an increased risk of breast cancer in women taking hormone therapy with estrogen.

Opportunity does not knock, it presents itself when you beat down the door.

One of the latest therapies against breast cancer is targeted therapy, in which targeted drugs are designed to block the growth and spread of cancer cells. These drugs work differently from chemotherapy drugs, which attack all cells that are growing quickly (including cancer cells). Trastuzumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody, is the first molecular targeting agent approved for therapy of metastatic (spreading) breast cancer, capable to significantly improve clinical outcome in combination with cytotoxic therapy. It is often given along with chemotherapy, but it might also be used by itself (especially if chemotherapy alone has already been tried). Trastuzumab can be used to treat both early- and late-stage breast cancer. When started before or after surgery to treat early breast cancer, this drug is usually given for a total of a year. For advanced breast cancer, treatment is often given for as long as the drug is helpful. Recent preliminary data from randomized, prospective, clinical trials suggest that trastuzumab decreases the risk of early recurrence by 50% in some patients. However, some women develop heart damage during or after treatment with the antibody drugs such as trastuzumab. This can lead to congestive heart failure. For most (but not all) women, this effect lasts a short time and gets better when the drug is stopped. The risk of heart problems is higher when these drugs are given with certain chemo drugs that also can cause heart damage. Let your doctor know if you develop other symptoms such as shortness of breath, leg swelling, and severe fatigue. Another issue of using targeted drugs is their high costs. Nothing comes without a price. Actually, there is a growing debate regarding using targeted therapy in breast cancer.

Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.Mother Teresa

On the other hand, tamoxifen is one of medically approved substance that is good for breast cancer prevention and treatment. It is selective estrogen receptor modulator. This means that it acts against (or block) estrogen in some tissues of the body, but act like estrogen in others. Estrogen can fuel the growth of breast cancer cells. It blocks 2 estrogens in breast cells, which is why it can be useful in lowering breast cancer risk. For more than 30 years, doctors have prescribed it to fight breast cancer tumors that depend on estrogen to grow. In a study of more than 13,000 women at high risk for breast cancer, scientists found that women who took tamoxifen for 5 years had fewer breast cancers than women who took a placebo. Newer research suggests that taking the drug for 10 years lowers the risk even more. Tamoxifen decreases the incidence of invasive and noninvasive breast cancer. Despite side effects resulting from administration of tamoxifen such as menopausal symptoms, its use as a breast cancer preventive agent is appropriate in many women at increased risk for the disease.

Going back to the nature is the current trend in the treatment of breast cancer. Ginsenoside‑Rg5 is active components identified in Araliaceae ginseng plants. In a recent study aimed to investigate the effect of ginsenoside ‑Rg5 on the rate of proliferation in BT-474 and T-47D breast cancer cells, ginsenoside‑Rg5 has been shown to exhibit a promising cytotoxic effect by inhibiting the viability of cancer cells. This study demonstrated that treatment of the breast cancer cells with ginsenoside‑Rg5 inhibited cell viability in dose and time dependent manner. Viability of T-47D and BT-474 cell lines was reduced to 23.5 and 27.7%, respectively after 48h by exposure to 10 mg/ml concentration of ginsenoside‑Rg5. This study showed that ginsenoside-Rg5 inhibits proliferation of the breast carcinoma cells through activation of specific proteins involved in AMP kinase pathway. Another study revealed that ginsenoside-Rg5 promotes breast cancer cell apoptosis (programmed cell death) in a multi-path manner with higher potency, and this suggests that ginsenoside-Rg5 might be an effective natural new material in improving breast cancer. Rare ginsenosides such as ginsenoside‑Rg5 could inhibit tumor angiogenesis. It is important to mention that angiogenesis plays a critical role in the growth and spread of cancer. A blood supply is necessary for tumors to grow beyond a few millimeters in size. Tumors can cause this blood supply to form by giving off chemical signals that stimulate angiogenesis. Because tumors cannot grow beyond a certain size or spread without a blood supply, scientists are trying to find ways to block tumor angiogenesis. Hence, rare ginsenosides are considered the new hope for treatment of many types of cancers.



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  2. Longo, R., Torino, F., & Gasparini, G. (2007). Targeted therapy of breast cancer. Current pharmaceutical design, 13(5), 497-517.
  3. Gray, R. G., Rea, D., Handley, K., Bowden, S. J., Perry, P., Earl, H. M., … & Fernando, I. N. (2013). aTTom: Long-term effects of continuing adjuvant tamoxifen to 10 years versus stopping at 5 years in 6,953 women with early breast cancer.
  4. Zou, Y., & Liu, P. (2016). Ginsenoside-Rg5 inhibits proliferation of the breast carcinoma cells through promotion of the proteins involved in AMP kinase pathway. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, 9(9), 17664-17669.
  5. Kim, S. J., & Kim, A. K. (2015). Anti-breast cancer activity of Fine Black ginseng (Panax ginseng Meyer) and ginsenoside Rg5. Journal of ginseng research, 39(2), 125-134.

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