Possible Role of Moringa oleifera Lam. Root in Epithelial Ovarian Cancer

Chinmoy K. Bose, MD, PhD


February 06, 2007


Age-specific incidence of epithelial ovarian cancer indicates a hormonal etiology and relates it to menopause, a time during the aging process when ovaries fail but the pituitary becomes overactive to produce a greater amount of gonadotropins. There is a 10-fold to 20-fold increase in the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level and a 3-fold to 5-fold increase in the luteinizing hormone (LH) level in blood in menopause. Naturally, gonadotropins, especially follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and its receptor (FSHR), are implicated as endogenous carcinogens for ovarian cancer.[1,2] Zheng and colleagues[3] demonstrated the presence of FSHR in innocuous postmenopausal ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) from where this cancer originates. This was the first study to provide evidence that OSE is hormonally active. These findings points to the need for new therapies to treat epithelial ovarian cancer encompassing natural and synthetic substances that have both anticancer and hormonal properties.

In studies of the anticancer potential of plants used in folk medicine of Bengal, extracts of plants such as Oroxylum indicum, Moringa oleifera, Aegles marmelos, Hemidesmus indicus, Polyalthia longifolia, and Aphanamixis polystachya could be considered as potential sources of anticancer compounds.[4,5] Among them, Oroxylum indicum has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and Aegles marmelos, with its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, has a role in the treatment of constipation, diarrhea, peptic ulcer, ear infections, and respiratory disorders. However, the only herb that has been shown to play a role in the treatment of female reproductive disorders is Moringa oleifera Lam., whose effectiveness is derived from a combination of antitumor and hormonal properties. Although the name "Shigon" for M oleifera is mentioned in the "Shushruta Sanhita" of India, which was written in the beginning of the first century AD, there is evidence that the cultivation of this tree in India dates back many thousands of years. Moringa oleifera Lam. contains a unique combination of isothiocyanate and glucosinolates. The effectiveness of the moringa plant in treating ovarian cancer became evident after the publication of recent studies demonstrating that benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC) and phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) induce apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells in vitro.[6,7] We knew that isothiocyanates have antitumor activity in cancers of the lung, breast, skin, esophagus, and pancreas, but we did not know that it can also induce apoptosis in ovarian cancer cell in vitro.




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