Costa Rican Scientists Find in Juanilama a Potential Treatment Against Gastric and Breast Cancer

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    Recently, the existence of a compound in the plant that could counteract some cancer cells was proven. A scientific team from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) found a compound in juanilama that could counteract some cancer cells, especially in the fight against breast and gastric cancer.

    The plant, with the scientific name Lippia alba, is one that has been noted for the medicinal qualities in its leaves, and now it could help weaken these types of cancer.

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    A group of 5 scientists from the School of Medicine and Chemistry, along with a pharmacy student, were in charge of the discovery. “What we did was study the effect of the essential oils of Lippia alba on tumor cell lines. In it, we observed that, out of 4 essential oils of the plant, in one of them there was a compound that could be very effective against gastric cancer and even breast cancer: geraniol”, commented Natalia Ortiz Chávez, one of the researchers in charge.

    “Essential oils are a mixture of compounds and these tend to vary. The chemical characterization makes it possible to know said composition and to what to attribute a given effect of the oil. If we assume that the oil affects cancer cells, then what compound in particular gives it that ability? Or will it be several compounds? This is what characterization allows us; knowing the identity of the constituents of the oils”, declared another of the researchers, José F. Cicció Alberti. This information would be vital in the next stages.

    For the moment, only 10% of biodiversity has been characterized based on its chemical and pharmacological properties, therefore the discovery of UCR is an important contribution to finding new drugs from plants. This study will function as a basic investigation, which will open the doors for more investigations to eventually be used as a cancer treatment.

    Although, at the moment, the information is not enough to use it as an immediate treatment, it does provide clues for a next step. “We want to know more about the effect of geranium within metastatic cells. In my doctoral project I have focused more on gastric cancer, because it is a tumor that when it metastasizes there is no longer a cure. Mortality at this stage is very high and, therefore, it would be ideal to create an alternative”, said Ortiz. If good results are presented in the next stages, the objective would be to move on to study in animals and then move on to humans. The research was published in the Journal of Essential Oil Research in early September

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