A research team from Lund University (Lund, Sweden), led by Stina Ordesson, have studied the effects of some sesquiterpene lactones (SLs) on cancer stem cells in four different breast cancer cell lines. SLs are a group of secondary metabolites found across the plant kingdom which possess high alkylating ability. The findings were published recently in PLoS ONE.
The SLs investigated in this study were damsin and coronopilin isolated from Ambrosia arborescens. A. arborescens is a plant species native to parts of South America where it is traditionally utilized as a medicinal plant with analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
The researchers also investigated the effect of a synthetically-produced chemical termed ambrosin on the cancer stem cells. The minimum inhibitory concentration (IC50) of damsin, coronopilin and ambrosin were determined after they were applied to three breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7, JIMT-1, HCC1937) and MCF-10A which is a normal breast epithelial cell line.
The researchers discovered that all three compounds inhibited cell proliferation; however, damsin and ambrosin were toxic in lower concentrations whereas, higher concentrations were required for coronopilin to exhibit its inhibitory effects.
This is the first research to successfully demonstrate how natural and synthetic SLs can inhibit the proliferation and spread of cancer stem cells. When speaking on the impact of the study, Ordesson added: “Cancer stem cells can be considered the most dangerous type of cancer cells, as they appear to have an inherent resistance to the chemotherapeutic drugs used today.”
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