According to a study by scientists at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland, glycoalkaloids, which are naturally occurring compounds, found in common vegetables such as tomatoes and potatoes, may potentially be turned into effective cancer-killing medicine.
The research leader, Magdalena Winkiel, explained that “Scientists around the world are still searching for drugs that will be lethal to cancer cells but at the same time, also safe for healthy cells. It isn’t easy despite the advances in medicine and development of modern treatment techniques. That’s why it may be worth going back to medicinal plants that were used years prior with success in the treatment of various illnesses. I believe that it’s worth re-examining their properties and perhaps rediscovering their potential.”
The team focused on 5 particular glycoalkaloids – chaconine, solanine, solasonine, tomatine and solamargine, all of which are found in extracts of the plant family known as Solanaceae, also referred to as nightshades.
It’s important to note that this family actually contains an extensive number of plants, many of which are toxic due to the alkaloids that they produce as a form of defense against animals that may eat them.
However, regardless of their toxicity, the right dosage will simply turn this poison into hopefully life-saving medicine.
Glycoalkaloids seem to be especially promising when it comes to treating cancer as they seem to inhibit cancer cell growth and might also promote the death of these cancerous cells.
Based on the latest research, glycoalkaloids do not pose a risk of damaging DNA or causing other tumors in the future.
Winkiel went on to note that “Even if we can’t replace anticancer drugs that are used nowadays, maybe combined therapy can increase the effectiveness of the treatment. There are many questions, but without detailed knowledge of the properties of glycoalkaloids, we will not be able to find out.”
The next step is using in vitro and animal research in order to determine which glycoalkaloids are promising and safe enough for future human trials.
Winkiel and her team seem to be focusing more on solanine and chaconine, which are derived from potatoes.
Solanine blocks some carcinogenic chemicals from turning into carcinogens inside the body while also inhibiting metastasis.
Research also found that solanine can kill certain types of leukemia cells when the dosage is just right.
Furthermore, chaconine can potentially treat sepsis as well, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Solamargine, mostly found in eggplants, can potentially stop liver cancer cells from reproducing, so it’s one glycoalkaloid that can also play a really important role as a complementary treatment for cancer.
Solasonine is also believed to attack cancer stem cells while tomatine (found in tomatoes) can support the cell cycle’s regulation, encouraging it to kill cancer cells.