An Ancient Herbal Medicine with Modern Medical Applications

Effects of Guggul on Head and Neck Cancer

Research suggests guggul compounds may help fight head and neck cancer.

Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a common cancer worldwide, with tobacco use as a major risk factor in the development and worsening of this type of cancer.40 Conventional treatments such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy still offer only a less-than-50% 5-year survival rate, prompting continued vigorous research for more effective and safer treatment options.41

Current research suggests that one of the active components in guggul gum resin, guggulsterone, may offer both efficacy and safety in treating and possibly even preventing HNSCC. Lab experiments conducted at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center showed that guggulsterone decreases the viability of cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner. At the highest concentration, the guggul extract proved to be toxic against 94% of HNSCC cells in these lab tests.37

In further lab studies on human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cell lines, guggulsterone induced cancer cell death, stopped the cells from developing, inhibited invasion, and enhanced the effectiveness of cancer drugs (erlotinib, cetuximab and cisplatin).34 Most recently guggul was shown to decrease the activation of cancer-promoting activity induced by nicotine, suggesting a possible cancer-preventive role for guggul.40 And in animal studies, mice treated with guggulipid showed decreased rates of tumor growth and improved the performance of the chemotherapy drug cetuximab on HNSCC.34

How Does It Work?

A randomized, blinded animal therapy model study designed to mimic effects in humans found that guggulipid’s anti-tumor actions were at least in part due to its ability to block the expression of the cancer-inducing protein referred to as STAT3. This STAT3 factor promotes the transformation of normal cells to malignant, and helps tumor cells survive and grow. In fact, there are currently pre-clinical cancer therapy studies underway with a number of natural compounds that inhibit STAT3 activity—but this study demonstrated that guggulipid decreased STAT3 more than any of these other compounds.34

A recently published study shows that guggulsterone also inhibits a cell-regulatory protein (14-3-3 zeta) in human head and neck carcinoma cells that prevents them from normal cell death and allows the cancer cells to build in number. Too much of this protein in HNSCC has also been linked to a poorer prognosis and resistance to chemotherapy.41

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed physician. If you require any medical related advice, contact your physician promptly. Information presented on this website is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard medical advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.
Referred to as apoptosis.