doi:10.1038/nindia.2012.127 Published online 31 August 2012
An indigenous mix of three herbs widely used in Indian medicine as 'triphala churna' is now being hailed for its significant anti-tumour action. The powdered formulation has been shown to curb the action of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a chemical signal produced by cells that stimulates the growth of new blood vessels1.
Triphala churna (THL) is a powder mix of three fruits, Emblica officinalis Gaertn (amla in Hindi), Terminalia chebula Retz (haritaki) and Terminalia belerica Roxb (bibhitaki) in equal proportions. The wonder mix is used in Ayurvedic treatment of several ailments including gastrointestinal disorders. It is also known for its high nutritional value.
The body needs to make new blood vessels (angiogenesis) for the initiation, growth and progression of malignant tumors. This is a tightly regulated process. Certain molecules help make these new vessels. Among the pro-angiogenic molecules, VEGF is essential for tumor angiogenesis. VEGF acts through the activation of VEGFR-2, which in turn stimulates the important steps of angiogenesis – proliferation and migration of endothelial cells as also the leakiness of new vessels.
The researchers found that THL and Chebulinic acid (a bioactive compound present in triphala) can significantly and specifically inhibit VEGF induced angiogenesis by suppressing VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) phosphorylation.
"VEGF plays important stimulatory roles in various diseases like cancer, retinopathy and endometriosis. The presently available anti-VEGF drugs being used in clinics not only have serious toxicities but are also very expensive", says principal investigator of the research Sujit Basu from the Comprehensive Cancer Center and Department of Pathology, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. Basu earlier worked in the department of medical oncology, Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI), Kolkata, India.
This necessitates development of newer and effective non-toxic and inexpensive anti-VEGF agents. "Our study suggests that THL or chebulinic acid may fulfil this promise in future. This will be particularly important for India and other developing countries where many cannot afford expensive drugs," Basu says.