Onions Suppress Ovarian Cancer Cell Proliferation

I recently ran across an article written by Marie Ellis on onion compounds that I found interesting. Onions are in general low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are a pungent vegetable that has been cited for its health benefits that includes lowering the risk of certain cancers and helping with depression. A new study has now found that a compound found in onions has anti-ovarian cancer effects. This particular research comes from Kumamoto University in Japan and has been published in Scientific Reports.

In 2014 a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) is the most common type of ovarian cancer with a 5-year survival rate of about 40%. With this rate, effective treatments are needed for this illness. The new cases of EOC currently rank 10th among female malignancies and the number of deaths due to this type of ovarian cancer rank 5th in the U.S.

Those with new cases of EOC have a relapse after initial chemotherapy treatment that occurs in about 80% of these cases. Because of this percentage, researchers have looked into the effects that a natural compound in onions (called onionin A, or ONA) has on EOC. The effects of ONA on a preclinical model of EOC in cells, was that the growth of EOCs slowed down after the team introduced ONA. It was also discovered that ONA inhibited pro-tumor activities of myeloid-derived suppressor cells, which the researchers say are linked with the suppression of the anti-tumor immune response of host lymphocytes. It was also found that ONA enhanced anti-cancer drugs’ effects by boosting their anti-proliferation ability.

The researchers used oral doses of ONA using ovarian cancer mice models in their experiments. It was shown that the mice had longer lifespans and showed diminished ovarian cancer tumor development. The study demonstrates that ONA does slow progression of ovarian cancer tumors by interrupting myeloid cells’ pro-tumor activity. Furthermore, the ONA reduced the extent of ovarian cancer cell proliferation induced by co-culture with human macrophages and that ONA directly suppressed cancer cell proliferation. ONA is therefore considered useful for the additional treatment of patients with ovarian cancer due to its suppression of the pro-tumor activation of tumor-associated macrophages and direct cytotoxicity against cancer cells.

Side effects in animals were not observed but with more testing, an oral ONA supplement may help cancer patients.

–Dr Fredda Branyon

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