Nigerian scientists have identified and validated the efficacy of more local plants in the treatment of cancers. They found that thymoquinone, kaurenoid acid and betulinic acid extracted from local plants showed anti-cancer activity against malignant brain tumours and breast cancer.

The researchers led by a Professor of Cancer Pharmacology at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, Isa Marte Hussaini, in a recent study presented at the Nigerian Academy of Pharmacy’s (NAP) investiture of new Fellows in Lagos, said a total of 72 plants species were identified as useful in the treatment of cancers and inflammations; and the most commonly used plants belong to the following families: Caesalpiniaceae; Euphorbiaceae; Fabaceae; and Rubiaceae.

Top on the list of local herbs for the treatment of cancers is Nigella sativa (Black caraway or black seed), which contains thymoquinone that induces cell death in brain tumour cells.

Other members of the cancer research team at the University of Maiduguri include: Prof. Bala Audu – Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist; Prof. Ibrahim Iliya– pharmaceutical chemist; Prof. Babagana Kolo- chemist; Dr. Bababayo Usman- consultant surgeon; Prof. Ahmed Mayun- consultant pathologist; Yabalu Abacha- Pharmacognocist; and Ali Musa Audu– consultant herbalist.

Hussaini, a new Fellow of NAP, in his keynote address at the event noted: “We screened 60 plant extracts. 22 were found to kill brain tumour cells (IC50 values = 125- 12.5 mg/ml). 15 killed breast cancer cells (IC50 values= 125 and 12.5 mg/ml). Out of the 37 that were biologically active, 10 extracts were extremely effective (IC50 = 12.5 mg/ml or less) against brain tumors and breast cancer cells.”

The Professor of Pharmacology concluded: “Isolation of thymoquinone from Black caraway. Ethnomedical survey indentified 60 plants. 10 plant extracts showed robust anticancer activity with IC50 values of less than 12.5 mg/ml

“We had isolated seven compounds so far. The structures of two compounds were determined to be Kaurenoic acid and Luteolin glycoside using spectroscopic methods (NMR and MS). A third compound, Betulinic acid was also isolated and characterized from Ziziphus spina-christi.

“Both Kaurenoid acid and Betulinic acid showed anti-cancer activity against malignant brain tumours and breast cancer.”

Other local plants identified that could be found nationwide include: Euphorbia hirta; Terminalia avecenniodes; Parkia biblobosa; Piliostigma reticulatum; Vitellaria parodoxa; Amaranthus spinosus; Annona senegalensis; Tamarandis indica; and Cassia siberiana.

Euphorbia hirta belongs to the plant family Euphorbiaceae. It is called In Nigeria, asin uloko in Edo, Nonon kurciya in Hausa, Chamma chamma in Kanuri, endamyel in Fula-Fulfulde, ba ala in Igbo (Owerri), akun esan in Yoruba.

Euphorbia hirta is also locally known as ogwu ngwo (eczema drug) in some eastern parts of Nigeria is used locally to arrest bleeding in the event of an injury. Leaves of Euphorbia hirta are used in traditional medicine for the treatments of boils, wounds and control of diarrhoea and dysentery.

Terminalia avicennioides belongs to the plant family Combretaceae. It is called kpaca in Nupe, kpayi in Gwari, baushe in Hausa, igiodan in Yoruba and edo in Igbo.

Terminalia avicennioides is a yellowish brown, hard and durable wood. The roots, which are used as chewing sticks have been claimed to cure dental caries and skin infections. Previous studies showed that the bark extract of Terminalia avicennioides exhibited both vibrocidal and typhoidal activities.

Parkia biglobosa (dawadawa in Hausa, African locust beans in English) is of the plant family Fabaceae.

Commonly called Shea butter in Nigeria, okwuma in Igbo, kadanya in Hausa, and ori in Yoruba, Vitellaria paradoxa, is a tree of Sapotaceae family.

Amaranthus spinosus is commonly known as the spiny amaranth, spiny pigweed, prickly amaranth or thorny amaranth. Amaranthus viridis (amaranth, tete in Yoruba, akwukwo nri in Ibo).


Source: The Guardian Newspaper