Berberine Fights Different Cancers

A number of recent studies are confirming that the plant compound berberine can inhibit the growth of various types of cancer.

Oregon grape contains berberine, which fights cancer.
Research finds that berberine from plants like Oregon Grape can fight cancer.

Berberine has been found in various studies to curb inflammation. Some have found it can curb inflammatory fat.

But berberine can do one further. It can stop the growth of cancer.

Plant sources of berberine

Berberine is an alkaloid contained in a number of plants, typically in their roots, stems and bark. Plants with considerable barberine content include:

  • Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
  • Californian poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
  • Chinese goldthread (Coptis chinensis)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
  • Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium)
  • Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima)

Berberine and Colon cancer

Research from the Nanjing Medical University in China (Liu et al. 2020) tested berberine and colon cancer. The researchers tested berberine on cell proliferation and lipogenesis in colon cancer cells.

They found that berberine inhibited cell proliferation of colon cancer cells. It did this by arresting the expressions of certain enzymes utilized by the cancer cells.

The researchers concluded:

“Together, our results suggest that berberine may serve as a candidate against tumor growth of colon cancer …”

Research from China’s Xiamen University Medical College (Ruan et al. 2017) tested colon cancer cells with berberine.

They initially found that inhibited the growth of intestinal polyps in animals and patients with hereditary adenomatous polyposis.

Their followup study found that berberine inhibits colon cancer polyps by downregulating beta-catenin signaling.

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They also found that berberine suppresses the growth of human colon cancers directly.

Berberine and endometrial cancer

In a study from the Shengjing Hospital of China Medical University (Wang and Zhang 2018), researchers tested endometrial cancer cells and berberine. They found that berberine was suppressed the growth of endometrial tumors.

The mechanism appeared to be berberine’s effects on the COX-2/PGE2 pathways (cyclooxygenase-2/prostaglandin E2).

They suggested that berberine was “a potential anticancer drug for treating endometrial cancer.”

Ovarian cancer

Another study (Li Liu et al. 2019) found that berberine kills ovarian cancer cells.

The researchers treated ovarian cancer cells (OVCAR3 and POCCLs) cells with berberine BBR with and without a chemotherapy drug cisplatin.

They found that berberine independently kills ovarian cancer cells. They also found that berberine in combination with the chemotherapy drug cisplatin kills ovarian cancer cells.

“Our results demonstrated that berberine significantly inhibited the proliferation of OVCAR3 and primary ovarian cancer cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner.”

Pancreatic cancer and berberine

Pancreatic cancer is has become one of the deadliest forms of cancer around the world and has few effective treatments. People diagnosed with pancreatic cancer patients rarely live longer than a year after diagnosis.

Researchers from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University (Akula et al. 2019) studied berberine together with a consortium of researchers from universities around the world.

The researchers ran a number of tests that tested four human pancreatic cancer cell lines. They found that barbering inhibited proliferation of pancreatic cancer among these cell lines.

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They also found that berberine possibly interfered with the effects of the drug metformin. Metformin has been linked with the development of pancreatic cancer in other research.

Berberine and breast cancer

Research from the Department of Breast Surgery, Maternity and Child Health Care in Shandong, China (Sun et al. 2019) tested berberine in breast cancer patients. They found that berberine increased survival times among the breast cancer patients considerably.

The researchers compared survival times with cell studies and found that berberine apparently helps regulate levels of metadherin (MTDH) in breast cancer patients.

Higher metadherin levels is linked with faster proliferation of breast cancer in other studies.

Berberine inhibits H. pylori

A number of studies have confirmed that Helicobacter pylori is linked to gastric cancer worldwide. Some have estimated that as much as 90% of gastric cancers are linked to CagA-positve H. pylori.

Researchers from a Chinese medical university (Zhang et al. 2017) tested 612 people with H. pylori infections. They treated them with quadruple antibiotic therapy, but they treated half with berberine as well. The other half had bismuth treatment.

The researchers found the berberine treatment was effective in reducing CagA-positve H. pylori by 86 percent.

An epiphany for cancer treatment

Research from Italy (Ortiz et al. 2014) reviewed the various cancer cell studies showing berberine able to inhibit the growth of several types of cancer. The researchers stated, in their paper titled, “Berberine, an epiphany against cancer”:

“In recent years, berberine has been reported to inhibit cell proliferation and to be cytotoxic towards cancer cells.”

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Ortiz LM, Lombardi P, Tillhon M, Scovassi AI. Berberine, an epiphany against cancer. Molecules. 2014 Aug 15;19(8):12349-67. doi: 10.3390/molecules190812349

Sun Y, Wang W, Tong Y. Berberine Inhibits Proliferative Ability of Breast Cancer Cells by Reducing Metadherin. Med Sci Monit. 2019 Nov 28;25:9058-9066. doi: 10.12659/MSM.914486.

Liu Y, Hua W, Li Y, Xian X, Zhao Z, Liu C, Zou J, Li J, Fang X, Zhu Y. Berberine suppresses colon cancer cell proliferation by inhibiting the SCAP/SREBP-1 signaling pathway-mediated lipogenesis. Biochem Pharmacol. 2020 Apr;174:113776. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2019.113776.

Liu L, Fan J, Ai G, Liu J, Luo N, Li C, Cheng Z. Berberine in combination with cisplatin induces necroptosis and apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells. Biol Res. 2019 Jul 18;52(1):37. doi: 10.1186/s40659-019-0243-6.

Ruan H, Zhan YY, Hou J, Xu B, Chen B, Tian Y, Wu D, Zhao Y, Zhang Y, Chen X, Mi P, Zhang L, Zhang S, Wang X, Cao H, Zhang W, Wang H, Li H, Su Y, Zhang XK, Hu T. Berberine binds RXRα to suppress β-catenin signaling in colon cancer cells. Oncogene. 2017 Dec 14;36(50):6906-6918. doi: 10.1038/onc.2017.296.

Wang Y, Zhang S. Berberine suppresses growth and metastasis of endometrial cancer cells via miR-101/COX-2. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018 Jul;103:1287-1293. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2018.04.161.

Akula SM, Candido S, Libra M, Abrams SL, Steelman LS, Lertpiriyapong K, Ramazzotti G, Ratti S, Follo MY, Martelli AM, Murata RM, Rosalen PL, Bueno-Silva B, Matias de Alencar S, Montalto G, Cervello M, Gizak A, Rakus D, Mao W, Lin HL, Lombardi P, McCubrey JA. Abilities of berberine and chemically modified berberines to interact with metformin and inhibit proliferation of pancreatic cancer cells. Adv Biol Regul. 2019 Aug;73:100633. doi: 10.1016/j.jbior.2019.04.003.

Zhang D, Ke L, Ni Z, Chen Y, Zhang LH, Zhu SH, Li CJ, Shang L, Liang J, Shi YQ. Berberine… Helicobacter pylori eradication… trial. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017 Aug;96(32):e7697. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000007697.

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