Colorectal cancer is becoming increasingly common in Asian countries and still remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Efforts to prevent colon cancer have targeted early detection through screening and chemoprevention. For the last ten years our laboratory has utilized an in vivo screening assay for the testing of potential cancer preventives for colon cancer. We have conducted investigations on over 150 compounds including many with botanical or herbal origins. As part of our program on natural products we have examined a number of herbal and botanical products in the aberrant crypt foci (ACF) assay including Korean red ginseng powder, green tea catechins, curcumin from the Indian culinary spice, tumeric, compounds from garlic and onion, resveratrol from red grapes, among others. In the ginseng experiments groups of 10 F344 rats were fed ginseng powder at a dose of 0.5 g/kg or 2 mg/kg for 5 weeks. During weeks 2 and 3 rats were injected with 10 mg/kg azoxymethane to induce ACF. Controls (n=10) did not receive azoxymethane (AOM). Rats were killed by CO2 overdose and ACF counted in the rat colon. In 8 week post-initiation experiments ginseng powder inhibited the progression of established ACF, indicating a cytostatic effect. This may be due to an anti-inflammatory effect. There is a body of literature that suggests that compounds in wine, tumeric, and tea inhibit cyclooxygenases, thus reducing prostaglandin-mediated effects on the colon. As colon tumors have been shown to highly express COX-2 protein, and given, that many NSAID drugs also suppress COX-1, it is tempting to speculate that herbal products that inhibit one or both forms of the COX enzyme will be effective agents for the prevention of cancer in man.
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