Home   /   News

UAEU Researchers Make Breakthrough in Cancer Treatment

According to a recently published study by a team of prominent researchers from the College of Medicine & Health Sciences at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), honey has dramatically beneficial effects in cancer treatment. The ground breaking discovery provides strong scientific evidence that manuka honey, obtained from nectar collected by honey bees from the New Zealand manuka tree, can effectively inhibit the growth of a variety of cancer cell types, including breast, skin and colon cancer. Additionally, the study highlights a new and potentially very exciting property of manuka honey in reducing the toxic side effects associated with chemotherapy treatment in cancer patients.

The study was led by Dr. Basel al-Ramadi, Professor and Chair of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, College of Medicine and Health Sciences and the study, entitled "Intravenous administration of Manuka honey inhibits tumor growth and improves host survival when used in combination with chemotherapy in a melanoma mouse model", was published in the renowned scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Dr. Al-Ramadi explained, "Manuka honey has been recognized 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. In this study, the team of researchers used three different cancer cell lines of human or murine origin and demonstrated that the addition of exceedingly small amounts of manuka honey, as little as 1.0 %, can stop the growth of cancer cells.  The researchers then carried out an extensive series of experiments to uncover the molecular basis of manuka's anti-cancer activity. Our findings provided conclusive evidence that manuka acts directly by inducing apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in cancer cells. Apoptosis is a physiological process that all multicellular organisms use to balance their need for new cell generation with the elimination of old unwanted ones. This process is tightly regulated so that, in adult tissues, cell death exactly balances cell division. If this were not the case, excessive apoptosis causes tissue atrophy, whereas insufficient apoptosis would lead to uncontrolled cell proliferation, such as in cancer. Hence, manuka induces the death of cancer cells through the same physiological process used by our body to maintain normal cell number."

In the course of their investigation, which began more than 5 years ago, the researchers also used an animal tumor model to demonstrate the potential effect of manuka honey in vivo. The results of these experiments confirmed the usefulness of using manuka as an anti-cancer agent. Remarkably, however, when the researchers used manuka honey in conjunction with a standard chemotherapeutic agent, they noticed that the combined treatment resulted in a significant improvement in overall animal survival. Based on these findings, the investigators concluded that the combination treatment with manuka plus anti-cancer drugs maintains effective anti-neoplastic therapy while simultaneously reducing the toxic side-effects of chemotherapeutic agents.

"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," added Dr. Al-Ramadi.

Dr. Ali Rashid Al Noaimi, UAEU Vice Chancellor, commended the team of researchers and said, "Following the vision of H.H. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Chancellor of UAEU to be a leading Research Intensive University of International Stature, our world-class faculty continue to demonstrate the abilities and strengths of this University in addressing the significant challenges faced world-wide and continue to contribute significantly in many areas in particular medical advancements. The very fact that this research has been published in such a highly regarded publication is testament to its importance, and testament to the brilliant work that Dr. Al-Ramadi and his colleagues have done. We are very proud of their achievement." The group of investigators also includes Dr Hakam El-Taji, formerly a senior consultant of surgery in Tawam Hospital, Dr Maria Fernandez-Cabezudo (Department of Biochemistry) and Dr Fawaz Torab (Department of Surgery), UAEU College of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The experimental findings reported in the recent publication are expected to stimulate further investigations on the use of manuka honey in patients that would hopefully usher in new modalities for cancer treatment in humans.

To view the full article, please visit: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0055993

May 15, 2014