Cancer has been the elusive mysterious disease that shows its ugly head at the most unexpected time and manner. Scientists across the globe are finding innovative ways to fight this disease and are exploring different types of therapies. And how would it be to fight cancer successfully without significant side effects of such drugs? That’s what researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, led by Prof. Sathees C Raghavan, involving Dr. Elizabth Thomas and Dr. Subhas Karki, seem to have discovered. In a recent study, they have chemically synthesized a plant-based derivative with possible anti-cancer properties – resveratrol. Their study was published in Scientific Reports published by Nature.
Resveratrol is a natural chemical produced by several plants when injured or attacked by pathogens such as bacteria or fungi. It is found in the skin of grapes, peanuts, blueberries, raspberries and mulberries. It has also been reported in the root of Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), and is an important constituent of traditional Chinese and Japanese medicines.
Studies have shown that resveratrol protects the heart, fights inflammation, is an anti-aging agent and can be effective against the development of cancers of skin, breast, prostate and lung. Besides, it can also meddle with cellular processes such as the smooth functioning of cell cycle, inflammation and cell death. A previous research by the same research group at IISc had synthesised a series of resveratrol derivatives and one molecule in particular - SS28 - was found to be the most active in fighting cancer, inspiring further research on its anticancer efficacy.
“Through extensive studies we find that that SS28, can function as an antimitotic agent and inhibit cell proliferation in many cancer cell lines by disrupting the microtubule formation by binding to Tubulin. SS28 treatment resulted in activation of apoptosis in cancer cell lines and mouse tumour tissues. This suggests that SS28 can act as a potent microtubule targeting agent and has a potential to be developed as an anticancer drug.” Dr Raghavan says.
Now, the researchers have explored the mechanism behind SS28’s action on cancer. They have found that SS28 affects the cell division of cancerous cells by inhibiting a process called ‘tubulin polymerisation’. Tubulin polymerisation is a process during cell division involving the action of tubulin, a cellular protein that forms microtubules – a major part of the skeleton of the cell. Any disruption to this process can lead to the death of a cell – and if they are cancerous, it can stop their spread.
The researchers conducted experiments to test the sensitivity of leukemic cell lines, human lung carcinoma cells, cervical cancer cells, and lymphoma cells (cancer of the immune system) to various doses of SS28. They observed cell death within 24 hours in some cases and have confirmed that this cell death was not because of cellular stress, but due to successful disruption of a normal cell cycle. Though SS28 was not capable of complete regression of tumour tissues, it inhibited the spread of tumour without causing significant toxicity in normal cells. SS28 induced disassembly of microtubules with misconfigured chromosomes since it has strong affinity to interact with tubulin, thereby killing all the deadly cancer cells.
“We aim to utilise basic research to unravel molecular mechanism behind cancer and strategies to combat this deadly disease. Towards that, our next step is to take some of the identified molecules for clinical trials”, says Prof. Raghavan on the next phase of this study.
So, calm down and sip on your glass of wine. For all you know, it might make you a little stronger against cancer, of course, when in limits!