Wasabi is a plant that is in the same family as cabbage, horseradish, and mustard. Its stem has a pungent smell and is used to make the spicy condiment that is the plant’s namesake. Sometimes called Japanese horseradish, wasabi has been used for hundreds of years, but is only recently being studied.
A new study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reveals the potent condiment may help fight against pancreatic cancer. How does a Japanese green mustard help fight pancreatic cancer – a cancer known for its difficulty to treat and stubbornness?
A team of Taiwanese researchers studied compounds in wasabi that occur naturally, as well as two of its synthetic derivatives, and their effects on human pancreatic cancer cells. The team used two pancreatic cell lines (PANC-1 and BxPC-3) and measured their responses to the wasabi compounds.
What they found was amazing.
Because of its location in the body, when cancer is in your pancreas it is difficult to spot. And when the symptoms show it is usually too late. Only 5-25% of patients who undergo treatment for pancreatic cancer are alive 5 years later.
What Are CSCs?
The team identified that the resistance to conventional treatment is partly due to the presence of cancer stem cells (CSCs). CSCs are a minority of cells within tumor capable of limitless self-renewal, which basically makes the tumor immortal.
These cells are capable of moving to all cell types capable of supporting cancer and are also resistant the the normal cancer treatments. Even if chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery shrinks or removes the tumor, the cancer stem cell population remains. In some cases, chemotherapy and radiation treatments may actually enrich the CSCs growth and life, which explains why many cancers return even more aggressively.
The Taiwanese team knew they needed to find a way to reduce and kill CSCs in order to fully beat the cancer. One natural compound (6-MITC) and one synthetic derivative (I7557) found in wasabi were found to counteract the damage cancer stem cells did.
Natural and Chemical Compounds
The two compounds were capable of reducing the CSC population and reducing the cell’s ability to multiply, change, and regenerate. The two compounds inhibited pancreatic cancer cells from growing; they stopped the cancer cells from dividing and conquering by initiating apoptosis (cell death).
Keep in mind: I’m not a doctor. If you’d like a full list of what 6-MITC and I7557 are capable of doing to deter pancreatic cancer, look here.
The authors of the study were please with their results but remain cautious. “In conclusion, wasabi compound 6-MITC and its chemical derivative I7557 may possess bioactivity against human pancreatic cancer cells, including the CSC population” but the test definitely deserves further study.