A Compound in Ginger Fights Against Cancer

Did You Know…A Compound Found in Ginger Can Kill Cancer Stem Cells?

Exciting new research reveals that ginger contains a compound that specifically targets cancer stems cells.  This compound, called 6-shogaol, can be up to 10,000 times more effective at killing cancer stem cells than chemotherapy.  And unlike conventional chemotherapy, 6-shogaol actively combats cancer stem cells without harming healthy cells.

Cancer Cell’s 1% 

Cancer stem cells make up less than 1 percent of the cells in any given tumor, but as the driving force behind a process called metastasis, they are responsible for an estimated 90% of cancer-related deaths.

These extraordinarily deadly cells can replicate indefinitely, and split off from the colonies in which they originate to generate new tumors elsewhere.  They are also impervious to nearly all chemotherapy agents. These traits explain how cancer can reemerge even after being “successfully” treated with chemotherapy… radiation… or surgery.

The Potent Impact of 6-Shogaol 

In findings published in the journal PLOS, researchers explained that 6-shogaol, a chemical isolated from dried or cooked ginger roots, targeted breast cancer stem cells along different pathways.  Ultimately 6-shogaol caused…

  • Reduced expression of surface markers
  • Altered cell cycle resulting in an increased rate of cell death
  • Inhibited tumor formation
  • Directly induced programmed cell death
  • Poisoned cancer stem cells (cytotoxicity)

The researchers then used two laboratory models of cancer to compare the potency of that last effect—cytotoxicity—to that of common chemotherapy drug taxol.  Taxol performed fairly well in the “mono-layer,” a one-dimensional laboratory model of cancer, but had virtually no power in the “spheroid,” a three-dimensional model believed to more accurately capture real tumors.

On the other hand, 6-shogaol actively fought cancer in both models.  Even when the researchers increased the concentration of taxol by 10,000 times, it remained ineffective in the spheroid model.

Treating Cancer the Non-Toxic Way 

As far as any potential safety concerns go, the researchers believe the fact that 6-shogaol naturally occurs in ginger, a food frequently eaten by humans around the world, is promising. One of the biggest benefits of ginger and other food-based cancer treatments is that they’re non-toxic.

It’s too early to know for certain exactly how ginger and 6-shogaol might be used to treat or prevent cancer.  While scientists explore that potential, one thing is already clear: the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is especially true when it comes to cancer treatment and prevention strategies using dietary agents.  And when it comes to prevention, experts say the best approach is to embrace a healthy diet and lifestyle.  Since ginger is non-toxic, there’s no reason not to try it alongside your other health initiatives.

If you’re interested in doing so, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center dietitians Joan Daniels, R.D., and Nancy Burke, R.D., offer this advice: “Ginger supplements are not recommended.  However, adding fresh ginger root to your diet or chewing candied ginger for nausea may be helpful.  Excessive amounts of ginger should be avoided, as it may interact with blood-thinners and cause lower blood sugar levels in people who take diabetes medications.”


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