1 Jun 2021
TALLAHASSEE, Florida – A plant used by Indian tribes in North America to make war paint could kill deadly breast tumors, new research shows. Bloodroot was worn by the Sioux, Comanches, and Apaches to terrify the enemy in battle. It contains a compound toxic to triple negative breast cancer, one of the most difficult types to treat, according to scientists.
Bloodroot, endemic to the United States, is endangered in some areas. It produces beautiful white and yellow flowers. Experiments show that the chemical found in the plant, called ‘sanguinarine’, stops the disease in its tracks. In addition, it was particularly effective in black women, who are the most prone.
“Our results suggest that sanguinarine may have therapeutic potential for patients, particularly African American women with the disease,” says lead author Dr. Samia Messeha, pharmacist at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, in a declaration.
How the blood root has become a “promising tool” to protect against breast cancer
The red sap bleeding by the blood root, also known as Sanguinaria canadensis, was used to decorate baskets and clothes, as well as for the face and body. War paint was believed to provide American Indians with supernatural powers when fighting invaders, including American cavalry. Like its cousin the poppy, wild grass is poisonous and a source of opium.
Sanguarine could be a “promising tool” in the fight against breast cancer, says the team. Cells derived from women of African American descent were more sensitive than those of European descent.
“Triple negative breast cancer is particularly aggressive in African American women, who are also more likely to develop this type of breast cancer than women of European descent,” says Messeha. “There is a strong interest in finding new therapeutic strategies to fight this cancer. “
It is not fueled by hormones or protein, so it does not respond to hormone therapy. Up to 20 percent of breast cancers are triple negative.
Previous studies have suggested that sanguinarine, also found in poppies and other herbal remedies, has anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. In this latest research, Messeha and her colleagues used it to treat two groups of triple negative cells, one from women of African American descent and the other from Europeans.
The chemical reduced the viability and growth of both, with the best results in those taken from the former. It also turned on different genes in each group, which could help explain why some patients do not respond to certain medications.
Could sanguinarine help improve the effects of other cancer drugs?
The researchers presented the results at a virtual meeting of the American Society for Investigative Pathology.
They now plan to study the effects of sanguinarine in triple negative breast cancer cell lines. They will also analyze its effects in combination with common drugs for this form of breast cancer.
Hollywood star Angelina Jolie had her breasts, ovaries and fallopian tubes removed after finding out she had an inherited BRCA1 mutation. About 70 percent of breast cancers diagnosed in people with the variant are triple negative.
They are considered more aggressive and have a poorer prognosis than other types of breast cancer, and tend to be of higher grade. It is more likely to be diagnosed in people under the age of 50 and blacks and Hispanics than Asians and whites. Finding out if you’ve inherited the gene requires a test using a blood sample.
SWNS writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.