Prostate Cancer-Fighting Compound Found in Jamaican Allspice

Science Blog

Essential to jerk seasoning, allspice is known for flavoring Jamaican and other cuisines around the world with a blend of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and pepper but, according to a new study by Miller School researchers, the aromatic spice could be known one day for impeding the growth of, or maybe even preventing, prostate cancer, the No. 2 cancer-killer of men in the U.S.

In the study published online May 8 in the Oxford Journals’ Carcinogenesis and led by Bal L. Lokeshwar, Ph.D., professor of urology and radiation oncology and Co-Director of Research in the Department of Urology, researchers demonstrated that Ericifolin, a complex compound in the allspice berry, significantly slows the growth of prostate cancer tumors by suppressing the androgen receptor (AR). A molecule central to the growth and metastasis of prostate cancer, AR enables prostate cancer cells to survive even after hormone therapy, which along with surgery and radiation is the standard treatment for prostate cancer.

“Androgen receptor, or AR for short, is the principal drug target for the treatment of prostate cancer, but there is no drug that completely eliminates AR. This complex compound in allspice seems to do that,” Lokeshwar said. “The most interesting data shows that it actually kills tumor cells which express the very specific prostate cancer marker, the androgen receptor. That is not to say that people should start eating allspice with every meal, but there exists the potential that the slow and steady consumption of this chemo-dietary agent may slow or even prevent prostate cancer.”

For now, Lokeshwar and his study team, including first author Shamaladevi Nagarajarao, Ph.D., a post-doctoral research associate, and Lei Zhang, a graduate student, have demonstrated that Ericifolin kills prostate cancer cells and reduces tumor growth by more than 50 percent in animal models, specifically mice that were injected with prostate cancer cells, then, either fed or injected daily doses of an aqueous allspice extract.

“To our surprise, it worked very well,” Lokeshwar said. “It was surprising because lots and lots of products kill cells in the test tube, but they are not effective when consumed or injected in animal models. In this case, the tumors did not disappear, but they grew about 50 percent more slowly with both methods. Further, these mice did not exhibit any obvious toxicity associated with other anticancer drugs.”

Next the researchers hope to determine whether Ericifolin, a member of the family of polyphenols, the richest source of antioxidants in our diet, can actually prevent prostate cancer from developing altogether. With a $1.5 million NIH grant, they are currently exploring Ericifolin’s anticancer activities — and its translational potential as a cancer chemopreventive agent for humans — in mice that have been genetically programmed to naturally develop prostate cancer at a certain age.

They also hope to begin a clinical trial in the near future with UHealth patients who are under active surveillance for early-stage or slow-growing prostate cancer, which does not yet warrant treatment. Since allspice is not toxic, Lokeshwar reasons those patients would be ideal candidates to take Ericifolin as a daily dietary supplement.

A biologist who began exploring the feasibility of natural anticancer agents about seven years ago, Lokeshwar turned his sights on allspice at the suggestion of a former research associate, Dominic A. Lyn. A co-author on the study, Lyn happened to be from Jamaica, the world’s No. 1 exporter of allspice, which is the dried, unripe berry of Pimenta dioica, an evergreen tree native to Jamaica. “He said, ‘Let’s try allspice. It’s from Jamaica, and it’s unique,’” Lokeshwar recalled.

At the time, there were — and still are — few scientific studies on allspice, but the researchers were intrigued by what they learned: Not only is allspice a popular folk medicine remedy for a number of maladies, but “pound for pound,” Lokeshwar said, “it has the highest amount of antioxidants of any food we know.”

Their interest would escalate when they performed some rudimentary experiments with a jar of allspice powder Lyn borrowed from his wife’s kitchen. Turning the powder into a water extract, they applied it to cancer cells and found it inhibited their growth. More elaborate and sophisticated experiments with allspice purified and liquefied in the Lokeshwar lab would produce the same results, first in cells, then in mice.

The next step, which would prove harder, was pinpointing which of the hundreds of compounds in allspice blocked the antigen receptor. Fortunately, Nagarajarao mistakenly knocked on Lokeshwar’s door inquiring about a job in a different lab. When Lokeshwar learned she was a chemist and biophysicist, he enlisted her in the hunt. With analysis provided by collaborators in the University of Kentucky’s College of Pharmacy, the team eventually isolated Ericifolin as the anticancer agent.

In an intriguing footnote, Zhang, a student in the Sheila and David Fuente Graduate Program in Cancer Biology, has since demonstrated that their aqueous allspice extract also impedes the growth of breast cancer cells, but with a different polyphenol, not Ericifolin. They are not sure yet which one but, in Lokeshwar’s mind, that discovery raises the possibility that allspice may have many anticancer properties worth exploring.

In addition to Lokeshwar, Nagarajarao, Lyn and Zhang, other co-authors of the study, “Ericifolin: a novel antitumor compound from allspice that silences androgen receptor in prostate cancer,” are Khaled A. Shaaban, Ph.D., and Jurgen Rohr, Ph.D., of the University of Kentucky, and Susana Villate, a former research associate in the Department of Urology.

FDA Copies the European Union and Slips In One of its Deadliest Weapons

Alliance for Natural Health, July 26, 2011

Are the NDI guidelines the ultimate FDA tool to freeze dietary supplement innovation? A special report by Robert Verkerk, PhD, ANH-USA Scientific Director and ANH-Europe Executive and Scientific Director.

If the US natural products industry values its ability to keep a diverse range of products available for the benefit of the American public, and believes in not exposing the public to unnecessary costs, we strongly suggest that it look very closely at the latest guidelines from the FDA—with eyes wide open. We refer to the FDA guidelines on so-called “new dietary ingredients” (NDIs) that we’ve been telling you about over the past several weeks. These guidelines preempt a crackdown on ingredients used in natural products, one that appears to be coordinated closely with a similar clampdown happening currently in Europe. The guidelines bear an uncanny likeness to the European Union’s Novel Food Regulation.

The justification given for the new guidelines is—as is always the case when facing a tighter regulatory noose around dietary supplements—consumer safety. This of course brings about a predictable response from the natural health sector: “But where are the dead bodies?” It’s actually quite a pertinent question, and one that is rarely taken seriously by the FDA or other regulators.

A careful examination of the most recent two years of US National Poison Data System (NPDS) figures reveals that, of all products to which we are exposed that might cause harm, pharmaceutical drugs caused 80% and 81% of fatalities, respectively. The majority of these were from unintentional poisoning. Are you surprised? It makes it even more of a wonder that regulators continue to try to convince the public that pharmaceutical-like regulation will be the best way of guaranteeing their safety!

The NPDS data, combined with other data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows emphatically that botanicals and dietary supplements are the safest products that we put in our mouths.

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Europe to ban hundreds of herbal remedies

This will kill a lot of people. -Ed.

Safety concerns sparked drive to outlaw products

The Independent
By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
Thursday, 30 December 2010

Hundreds of herbal medicinal products will be banned from sale in Britain next year under what campaigners say is a “discriminatory and disproportionate” European law.
With four months to go before the EU-wide ban is implemented, thousands of patients face the loss of herbal remedies that have been used in the UK for decades.

From 1 May 2011, traditional herbal medicinal products must be licensed or prescribed by a registered herbal practitioner to comply with an EU directive passed in 2004. The directive was introduced in response to rising concern over adverse effects caused by herbal medicines…
…According to the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), which represents herbal practitioners, not a single product used in traditional Chinese medicine or ayurvedic medicine has been licensed. In Europe, around 200 products from 27 plant species have been licensed but there are 300 plant species in use in the UK alone.
The ANH estimates the cost of obtaining a licence at between £80,000 and £120,000 per herb. They say this is affordable for single herbal products with big markets, such as echinacea, a remedy for colds and flu, but will drive small producers of medicines containing multiple herbs out of business.