Forget Vampires… Garlic could Kill Cancer!

Prof. Marc Diederich and a team of researchers spotted around the world have discovered how a molecule found in garlic can stop cellular growth in colorectal cancer.

Image: Diallyl sulfides from garlic, can be used to prevent growth and division of colorectal cancer cells. (Photo courtesy of jeffryw [cc by 2.0], via Flickr)

Colorectal cancer, or bowel cancer as it is more commonly known, is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide and the third most common form of cancer overall (excluding skin cancers). Advances in testing and treatment have greatly improved in recent years, but beneficial effects of chemotherapy are still drastically reduced in later stages of the disease. Scientists had previously discovered that a diet containing plenty of onions and garlic seemed to protect against certain types of cancer, and as a result Prof. Diederich’s decided to study different molecules from these vegetables. They identified two - diallyl tetrasulfide and dibenzyl tetrasulfide - as potentially useful.

After the Chemicals Are Extracted, How are They Used?


Former research by Diederich’s team had shown that certain molecules extracted from garlic actually stop normal cell division and increase cell death, both of which are extremely valuable tools in targeting cancer cells. In their most recent paper in Cancer Letters, Diederich’s team demonstrated the possibility of how these molecules could act specifically against colorectal cancer cells.


They had discovered that both diallyl tetrasulfide and dibenzyl tetrasulfide are capable of binding to another molecule which happens to be found in all cells, tubulin. This simple molecule acts like small “lego” pieces, which can be ‘snapped’ together inside cells to produce long filaments. These filaments end up as a skeleton-like structure, which continually grows and shrinks inside the cell, depending on what the cell happens to be doing at that time. For example, when the cell prepares to divide, the long filaments need to shrink. However, when one of either of the molecules found in garlic is present, it binds to the tubulin, locking the “lego” pieces in place. This prevents the cancer cell from dividing and ultimately multiplying. This is actually a mechanism already used by the common cancer treatment, Taxol. However, Taxol is not capable of effectively treating all cancers as some are resistant to its effect.  


The Proof is in the Pudding


As they had done in many of their other studies, the team further tested the effects of synthesized versions of the garlic extracts in living tissue using a signature technique known as “xenografts”. This involves transplanting live colorectal tumors into zebrafish and the researchers in this study were able to stop the growth of cancer cells using the garlic extracts. Going forward, the team hopes that the treatment will work in more complex species and eventually humans, making it an all-natural solution to beating colorectal cancer.


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Publisher Website 6 DEC, 2017 Published Date Tubulin-binding anticancer polysulfides induce cell death via mitotic arrest and autophagic interference in colorectal cancer