Scientists discovered the active compound in Kencur, an aromatic spice used in culinary dishes and herbal tonics, suppressed cancer growth in cell cultures and mice.
Native to Southeast Asia, Kencur (Kaempferia galanga L.) is a ginger-like spice used to add a robust flavor to food and incorporated into natural medicine concoctions like jamu.
Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners use Kencur to reduce cold and flu symptoms, and other regions use the spice to treat sore throats and lessen abdominal discomfort.
However, previous research suggests that Kencur may have anti-cancer properties. To understand more, Osaka Metropolitan University researchers conducted experiments to determine the mechanisms behind the anti-cancer effects of Kencur.
To perform the research, the team focused on Kencur extract and the primary active component of Kencur called ethyl p-methoxycinnamate (EMC).
In cell culture and mouse experiments, the scientists found that at low doses, EMC suppressed cell proliferation by upregulating p21 — a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor that promotes cell cycle arrest — and downregulating cyclin D1 expression — a cell cycle regulator that influences cancer development.
EMC also decreased mitochondrial transcription factor A (TFAM) expression, which helps regulate mitochondrial function and is associated with the proliferation of cancer cells.
The researchers suggest that these findings provide new insights into the association between the anti-cancer effects of natural compounds like Kencur and TFAM, indicating that TFAM might be a potential target for developing future cancer therapies.
In a news release, lead author Akiko Kojima, Associate Professor of the Graduate School of Human Life and Ecology, said, "The results of this study confirm the anti-cancer effects of Kencur extract and its main active ingredient, EMC. It is highly expected that TFAM will become a new marker for anti-cancer effects in the future as research advances in related fields."