The natural compound berberine, found in plants such as barberry and golden lily of the valley, inhibits the spread of lung cancer cells in the laboratory, a new study published in the journal Pharmaceutics shows.
Berberine also reduces airway inflammation and damage to healthy lung cells exposed to chemicals in cigarette smoke.
"Berberine has shown therapeutic benefits in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We wanted to explore its potential in suppressing lung cancer and reducing inflammation," said lead researcher Dr. Kamal Dua, senior lecturer in pharmacology at the University of Technology Sydney.
Scientists have found that berberine exhibits powerful anti-cancer activity by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells.
Berberine has long been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, but its therapeutic benefits have been limited by poor water solubility and intestinal absorption, and toxicity at high doses.
To overcome these problems, Dr. Dua developed the use of liquid crystal nanoparticles, an advanced drug delivery system that encapsulates berberine in tiny soluble and biodegradable polymer beads to improve safety and efficacy.
Decades of research have shown that cigarette smoke is toxic to lung cells, causing airway inflammation and accelerating the development of diseases such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.
Researchers have found that berberine suppresses the formation of inflammatory chemicals called reactive oxygen species that cause damaging effects on cells. It also modulated genes involved in inflammation, oxidative stress, and reduced premature cell aging.