UAEU Research Breakthrough: Saffron Takes on Liver Cancer
In an important step for the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) toward contributing high standard and significant research internationally, Science News, a major international scientific news agency, recently released news on the effect of saffron in the prevention of liver cancer. Prof. Amr Amin at the Biology Department, UAEU, is the lead author of the team who conducted the study that was funded by Emirates Foundation. The study was originally published in the September issue (2011) of the prestigious journal “Hepatology” on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
The study shows that saffron - a commonly used spice that adds flavor and color to foods - provides a significant chemopreventive effect against liver cancer in animal models. When saffron was administered to rats with diethylnitrosamine (DEN)-induced liver cancer an inhibition of cell proliferation and stimulation of apoptosis was observed, as reported by Science News.
Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer and the third leading cause of cancer mortality in the world. Medical evidence has shown that chronic infection with hepatitis B and C are major risk factors for liver cancer, and exposure to environmental carcinogens, iron overload, fatty liver disease and alcohol abuse can also contribute to development of liver cancer. DEN, an environmental carcinogen, is found in tobacco-smoke, cosmetics, gasoline, and processed foods including milk and meat products.
Professor Peter Werner, Dean of the Science Faculty at UAEU, remarked: “Prof. Amin has been working on investigations seeking approaches that control cancers using natural products, and this led to this ambitious research plan within the Faculty of Science. The plan involved funding and facilitating Prof. Amin’s research activities, supporting his graduate M.Sc and Ph.D. students, and encouraging his international collaboration and interaction with scientists in North America and Europe.”
“Despite the modest laboratory and analytical facilities, Prof. Amin managed in collaboration with his research group to achieve a breakthrough, demonstrating the effect of saffron as a natural product to control the growth of liver cancer. “
“He is currently carrying out further investigations and studies on related issues. His breakthrough gained impressive interest worldwide both from members of the scientific community and patients. His work is widely cited in international publications and patients have been in contact with him seeking advice and calling for swift clinical trials. It is worth mentioning here that significant funding is much needed now to translate Amin’s world-class pre-clinical studies to humans.”
"In the fight against cancer, there has been much interest in chemopreventive properties of natural herbs and plants," said Prof. Amr Amin. "With limited treatment options, approaches that prevent cancer development are among the best strategies to protect against the disease." Prior studies have shown that saffron, a naturally derived plant product, possesses antioxidant, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties.
In order to explore the potential of saffron in preventing the development and progression of liver cancer, DEN was used to induce lesions in rats, mimicking benign and malignant tumors in humans. The research team administered saffron to the animals at different doses two weeks prior to DEN injection and continued the regimen for twenty-two weeks. Results show saffron significantly reduced the number and the incidence of liver nodules, with animals receiving the highest dose of saffron showing complete inhibition of hepatic nodules. Animals that received pre-treatment with saffron displayed a decrease in different biomarkers, which normally indicate liver damage. Furthermore, saffron inhibited the expression of different markers of cell proliferation and inflammation, all of which have respective roles in the development and progression of cancerous cells.
"Our findings show that saffron provides an anti-cancer protective effect by promoting cell death (apoptosis), inhibiting proliferation of cancerous cells, and blocking inflammation," concluded Prof. Amin. "Further investigations of saffron and its mechanism of action in liver cancer (and other cancer types) are currently underway."
Notes to Editors
United Arab Emirates University (UAEU)
- 21st Century research-based university, providing research solutions to support the UAE and, through its global partners, the wider world
- Founded in 1976 by HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan; the UAE's first national university
- Chancellor: His Highness Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research
- Nine Faculties:
- Business & Economics
- Food & Agriculture
- Humanities & Social Sciences
- Information Technology
- Medicine & Health Science
- 12,500 students enrolled in Fall 2011/2012
- First PhD program in UAE national institution commenced in January 2010
- Strong focus on providing specific research solutions and benefits to society − the new model of a 21st Century university, furthering research as part of the global network of discovery and innovation
- Ranked 338 worldwide by the QS Ranking of International Universities