JUL 15, 2020 6:00 PM PDT

Traditional Medicine Reveals a New Anti-Cancer Drug

WRITTEN BY: Jasper Cantrell

The art of traditional eastern medicine dates back thousands of years. It uses many unproven remedies, and many consider it a pseudo-science. However, modern research proves that there is indeed truth behind the tradition.

Celastrol is a compound found in the root of the thunder god vine. Traditional eastern medicine uses the root to treat cancer, kidney disease, and several other disorders. Studies have shown celastrol has anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity, and anti-cancer characteristics. The anti-cancer activities piqued the interest of a group from Beijing University, and they decided to investigate.

The group first began the investigation of celastrol after it came up in a screen for inhibitors of hepatocellular carcinoma metastasis. They found that celastrol could suppress cell migration, a key activity in metastatic cancers. A recent study predicted that celastrol could inhibit ROCK2 kinase based on structural models, so the team started from there.

The ROCK2 kinase connection revealed a possible mechanism by which celastrol could suppress metastasis of hepatocellular carcinomas. The team had previously studied a protein called ezrin. Ezrin acts as a cross-linker of the actin skeleton of a cell and the plasma membrane, and its active site is associated with the metastasis of hepatocellular carcinomas. ROCK2 is the kinase responsible for activating ezrin, and its inhibition by celastrol may prevent ezrin’s hyper-activation and the resulting pro-metastasis effects.

The team examined their hypothesis by in vitro experimentation. They used hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines to follow the formation of activated ezrin after the addition of celastrol. At the one-hour mark, they saw a fifty percent decrease in activated ezrin. The team observed a similar decline when they conducted the same experiment on ROCK2. Celastrol seemed to prevent the activation of ROCK2, which then prevented the activation of ezrin. One more test confirmed this connection, as celastrol elicited the same inhibition on cell migration as an ezrin mutant that prevented its activation by ROCK2.

Celastrol is a natural compound with a promising future in medicine. Several studies have already identified a link between celastrol and the prevention of cancer. This study reveals a possible mechanism by which celastrol prevents the activation of a ROCK2-ezrin signaling pathway, thereby suppressing metastatic activities in hepatocellular carcinomas. The team notes that celastrol is toxic to cells at high doses, preventing further experimentation.

The team concludes that celastrol has the potential for the clinical intervention of liver cancer metastasis and warrants further research. It also begs the question of what other new therapeutics will traditional medicine reveal. New studies are published every week, so we will soon find out.

Sources: Nature Scientific Reports, DrJoe Brown

About the Author
  • Hey everyone! My name is Jasper and, considering I am pretty new here to Labroots, I figured I would introduce myself. I received my bachelor’s from the University of California at Riverside back in 2016. I started off my career a few years ago with a job at a University over in New York, before moving over into the industry. I'm happy to be writing content for Labroots, and I hope you enjoy it!
You May Also Like
MAR 29, 2021
Cancer
Modeling metastasis
MAR 29, 2021
Modeling metastasis
Novel research published in Genome Biology investigates the cellular mechanisms at work during cancer metastasis using n ...
APR 07, 2021
Cancer
Does inhibiting NLRP3 inhibit melanoma tumor growth?
APR 07, 2021
Does inhibiting NLRP3 inhibit melanoma tumor growth?
Researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center have published exciting findings in the Proceedings of the Natio ...
APR 19, 2021
Health & Medicine
Using Artificial Intelligence to Understand the Language of Cancer and Alzheimer's Disease
APR 19, 2021
Using Artificial Intelligence to Understand the Language of Cancer and Alzheimer's Disease
Cancer and Alzheimer’s disease are life-changing, and there is still much we don’t understand about what cau ...
APR 24, 2021
Technology
'Information Theory' Detects Culprit Cancer Genes
APR 24, 2021
'Information Theory' Detects Culprit Cancer Genes
A team of scientists at Johns Hopkins used “information theory” to uncover key cancer genes. One such culpri ...
MAY 13, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Explore Ways to Enhance Biomarker Discovery Research
MAY 13, 2021
Explore Ways to Enhance Biomarker Discovery Research
Enhance your existing research or discover new methods with a suite of NGS tools and techniques to find and characterize ...
MAY 10, 2021
Cancer
Advancements in nanotech pave the way for improved chemotherapy
MAY 10, 2021
Advancements in nanotech pave the way for improved chemotherapy
New research from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reports on a development in improving the effectiveness of c ...
Loading Comments...