Dumb cane plant found potential in treating cancer

Category: Health, Research and Developments 1,069 2

A notorious ornamental plant commonly known as dumb cane has been found to be useful in treating cancer because of its suspected antiangiogenic contents or its capability to suppress blood vessel’s growth and development.

A poisonous ornamental plant studied for anti-cancer use
A poisonous ornamental plant studied for anti-cancer use

Anticancer drugs and therapies like chemotherapy and radiation are proven to be useful in treating cancer. However these treatments are toxic and sometimes carcinogenic causing deleterious side effects to patients. Thus the concept of antiangiogenesis in treating cancer was introduced.

Antiangiogenesis is the process of inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels to control the spread of tumour cells by disabling the transport of nutrients toward the cancerous cells.

Normally tumour starts from a single cell that has become cancer and is dividing to make more cancer cells. The growths of malignant cells will depend on the availability of specific nutrients and its cofactors being distributed through blood vessels. The more blood vessels the tumour continues to grow and divide leading to its uncontrollable multiplication which is fatal to human.

The concept of antiangiogenesis shed light to control the growth of cancer cells. Thus, scientists are continue searching for the natural resource of this antiangiogenic agent, suspected to be available to the locally used ornamental plant known as dumb cane.

Dumb cane plant, scientifically known as Dieffencachia maculata, is an ornamental plant species that grows in tropical climates like the Philippines. It is a perennial herbaceous plant with straight stem, simple and alternate leaves containing white spots and flecks, making it attractive as indoor foliage.

However, behind its pleasing exterior, this plant is notable for its poisonous characteristics. Its juice or sap causes skin irritations, swelling, and may cause death if swallowed.

Because of its poisonous characteristics, the students of Notre Dame of Dadiangas University, College of Arts and Sciences in General Santos City conducted a study entitled Antiangeogenic Activity and Cytotoxicity of the Leaf of Dieffenbachia maculata (dumb cane plant) to assess the plant’s possible medical uses.

The plant’s leaf essential oil and ethanolic extracts were collected and subjected to Choriollantoic Membrane (CAM) assay and Cytotoxicity assay using mallard eggs and lymphocytes (white blood cell from a normal human blood) to assess the plant’s cytotoxicity and antiangiogenic contents. Results were also compared to control treatments such as phosphate buffer saline solution (mineral water) and Simvastatine, a commercial anti-cholesterol drug.

Results showed that dumb cane leaf extracts and essential oil can influence the development of blood vessels in mallard embryos making the researches to conclude that the dumb cane leaf extracts and essential oil contain antiangiogenic substance essential for the treatment of cancer. Interestingly, its effect is also comparable to simvastatin. However, though further study is recommended to determine the applicable concentration of dumb cane ethanolic extracts and essential oils for pharmaceutical purposes, the study was able to introduce a possible natural source of antiangiogenic agents that can be use in treating cancer.

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