at Georgia State University have found that whole ginger extract has
promising cancer-preventing activity in prostate cancer. The first of
its kind study looks at the anti-cancer properties of ginger as a whole,
rather than that of individual compounds found in the plant.
lab of Ritu Aneja, associate professor of biology, found that the
ginger extract had significant effects in stopping the growth of cancer
cells, as well as in inducing cell death in a spectrum of prostate
cancer cells. The research appears online in the British Journal of
Most importantly, in animal studies, the extract did not show significant toxicity to normal tissues, such as bone marrow.
“We found very good tumor regression by up to 60 percent, and no toxicity whatsoever,” Aneja said.
much research has been performed on ginger’s anti-cancer properties,
Aneja’s lab takes a more holistic approach when it comes to
investigating the types of molecules involved.
“We believe that
it is not any individual compound that is solely responsible for the
extract’s anti-cancer properties,” Aneja said. “It’s an interplay of
components that is synergistic.”
That makes it possible for
scientists to use a much smaller amount of extract to take advantage
whole ginger extract’s beneficial properties than would be required if a
single chemical was used, Aneja said.
In looking at the data, a
human would have to consume only about 3½ ounces of whole ginger extract
in a daily diet to get the beneficial effects.
seeks to find natural, non-toxic ways to combat cancer using kinder,
gentler drugs as well as plant compounds, as current approaches cause
major and debilitating side effects.
When beneficial activities
are discovered in plant extracts, it takes a lot of work to unravel what
chemical compounds in the extract actually provide the preventative
effect, or kill cancer cells.
“Although it might seem easy to work
with plant extracts, it is not so, because there are zillions of
compounds and other complex derivatives in there, and we don’t know
which ones are the good ones,” she said. Moreover, the compounds we are
seeking to identify may be low in abundance, but they may be very
important and cannot be disregarded.”
Aneja has mentored numerous
undergraduate students in research. The research into whole ginger
extract started with the work of a persistent, dedicated undergrad,
Vibhuti “Simran” Sharma, now an environmental chemist for the Southern
“I did a lot of background research, and found several
published papers on ginger, but discovered that there was nothing much
done on the whole extract, especially in prostate cancer — a slow
growing, long-latency cancer amenable to chemopreventive strategies,”
Sharma said. “Most of the literature focused on only one compound found
Aneja combines guidance with independent exploration
to allow undergraduate students to learn on their own in a stimulating
and motivational environment. Sharma learned more about techniques and
protocols, and took it upon herself to turn three pounds of ginger into
the extract for the study.
It was a process of trial and error for Sharma, as she initially had problems getting the extract to freeze dry.
“It turns from ice into a solid, but it kept going into a liquid,” she said. “It took me three weeks to get what I wanted.”
experimented with prostate, breast and cervical cancer cells, and found
that most cells responded well to the extract. Aneja’s lab took the
research further in prostate cancer, and today, even though Sharma has
graduated, she is still assisting Aneja’s lab, helping to make more
whole ginger extract, for further fractionation and efficacy studies,
that are ongoing.
“I never knew it could get so big,” Sharma
said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s great being able to say that I was just
an undergrad when I started this research, and now it’s being published
just a year after I graduated. I take a lot of pride in it, but it would
not be possible without the help from everyone in the lab.”
research team included Prasanthi Karna, Sharmeen Chagani, Sushma R.
Gundala, Padmashree C.G. Rida, Ghazia Asif, Sharma and Aneja from
Georgia State University, and Meenakshi Gupta from West Georgia
Hospitals in LaGrange, Ga.
The research article, “Anticancer
benefits of whole ginger extract in prostate cancer,” appears in the
British Journal of Nutrition at http://journals.cambridge.org/gingerextract
. The British Journal of Nutrition is published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Nutrition Society.