Honey has power to fight cancer

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Honey has power to fight cancer

Scientific findings by researchers here could be the breakthrough the world has long been waiting for in cancer treatment.


Olivia Olarte-Ulherr

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Published: Mon 25 Feb 2013, 8:59 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 9:24 AM

The groundbreaking discovery by the research team at the UAE University found that honey from New Zealand’s manuka tree can effectively inhibit growth of cancer cells, including breast, skin and colon cancer; and tremendously reduce the toxicity associated with chemotherapy treatment.

“Manuka honey has been recognised for its anti-bacterial and wound-healing properties for many years. However, the potential effect of manuka on cancer cells has not been investigated in detail,” said Dr Basel Al Ramadi, professor and chair of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, College of Medicine and Health Sciences at the UAEU.

In the study, led by Dr Al Ramadi, the team of researchers used three different cancer cell lines (breast, skin and colon cancer) and demonstrated that the addition of exceedingly small amounts of manuka honey, as little as 1.0 per cent, can stop the growth of cancer cells by up to 70 per cent.

The team of investigators carried out further studies to characterise the mechanism by which manuka honey is inducing the death of cancer cells.

“The evidence so far suggests that manuka acts by stimulating a number of proteins inside the cells that leads to the induction of apoptosis, or programmed cell death. This is a natural process by which our body eliminates old or unwanted cells and is part of the normal organism’s development,” Dr Al Ramadi told Khaleej Times.

Using an experimental cancer model, in which mice are implanted with fast-growing skin tumour cells, the researchers administered manuka honey intravenously in conjunction with chemotherapy, and the results showed an improvement in the overall survival of the animal.

“It is significant that a honey can do this.... The manuka honey alone can inhibit cancer growth by 30 per cent, but when combined with chemotherapy, there was 61 per cent inhibition,” Dr Al Ramadi stressed.

The study, which was carried out over five years and published in the renowned scientific journal PLOS ONE early this month, is expected to stimulate further investigations on the use of manuka honey in cancer treament in humans.

“This is a very exciting area of research and we are optimistic about what these new developments may mean in terms of potential new treatments for certain types of cancer,” the professor said.

Moving forward, the research team hopes to get funding for their next course of investigations.

These include identifying the active components of the manuka honey that is inducing the growth-inhibiting effect, to understand the molecular pathways by which the honey is inducing the death of cancer cells, and the actual testing of manuka honey in humans through small-scale clinical trials.

The team aims to carry out the studies within the next two years.

But first, “we will be applying for further funding from the National Research Foundation and Terry Fox, and for ethical approval”, said Dr Al Ramadi.

This year’s Terry Fox Run, the annual cancer fundraising initiative, was held on Friday and generated Dh337,533. Some of the money raised was given to UAEU for research.

The UAEU research team is collaborating with colleagues in the departments of oncology and surgery in Tawam Hospital to continue their investigation. Tawam Hospital has the most comprehensive oncology treatment facility in the country, registering up to 80 per cent of the cancer cases in the UAE.


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