Ball moss making waves in prostate cancer treatment
The incidence and prevalence of prostate cancer is very high in Afro-Caribbean men and is the second leading cause of death in men age 55-70 years.
Jamaican men, in particular, have one of the highest prevalence of prostate cancer. A study reported by Glover et al in 1998 indicated the prevalence of prostate cancer in Jamaica was 304 in 100,000 men, which is higher than that observed in black Americans. One can argue that the prevalence and mortality rate of the disease in Jamaica is partially due to the stigma associated with the screening test done to detect abnormality of the prostate gland. However, efforts are being made to change this, as early detection can lead to better management and treatment of the disease.
The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland found in the male reproductive system that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. It is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum, the tube that carries the urine and sperm from the bladder (urethra) which passes through the gland and the seminal vesicle (gland that secretes the many components of semen) lies behind the prostate. The prostate gland normally increases in size with age.
Prostate cancer, like any cancer, is as a result of uncontrolled growth of cells in the prostate (increase proliferation) and a reduced ability to naturally control the reduction of these cells (reduced apoptosis). This abnormal growth can spread to other parts of the body (metastasize) such as the bone and can be deadly. In fact, prostate cancer is the fourth leading cause of death in Jamaica.
Scientists all over the world are trying to find solutions for the treatment of prostate cancer and other cancers, Jamaica is no different. One such group is the team at the Bio-Tech R&D Institute led by Dr Henry Lowe, which is located at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus. Bio-Tech R&D Institute, over the past 14 years, has done extensive scientific research on Jamaican medicinal plants in an effort to identify possible drug molecules for the treatment and management of prostate cancer.
POTENTIALLY PROMISING PRODUCT
These activities have led to the discovery of the cytotoxic properties of Tillandsia recurvata (ball moss, old man's beard) against prostate cancer cell lines (P-3C and P-45). Initial separation and bioactivity studies have identified a potentially promising product for the management and treatment of prostate cancer.
Findings coming from their research include:
- Anti-proliferative activity against prostate cancer-PC-3, breast cancer, Kaposi sarcoma, B-16 melanoma and B-cell lymphoma cancer cell lines from transgenic mouse strain.
- Inhibition of angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels) to decrease the viability of prostate cancer cells.
- Anti-leukaemic activity of the cycloartances isolated from the ball moss.
- The inhibition by cycloartances from the ball moss on Cdc42 (cell division control protein 42) binding kinases and MRCKa/v.
- Anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory activities of isolated flavonoid compound from ball moss extract.
Research suggests that early interventions such as diet and the use of nutraceutical supplement can significantly reduce the probability of developing the disease; give a better outcome to persons diagnosed with the condition, and can also form part of an effective treatment protocol.
Alpha Prostate Formula 1, a nutraceutical supplement distributed by Eden Gardens Nutraceutical, is used in the management of prostate health. Alpha Prostate Formula I was formulated with the extracts and isolated from the ball moss which has been identified to possess anticancer activity against prostate cancer. The product has shown significant bioactivity against the cancer cells and negligible toxicity against normal cells. The product also promotes the maintenance of good prostate health.
Subsequent work has demonstrated the potential for the nutraceutical innovations to be taken to the next level, which is the development of pharmaceuticals. To date, they are developing a number of pharmaceutical drugs from the ball moss, as noted from the publications and patents.- Shelly-Ann Hartley BSc, is a research scientist at the Biotech R&D Institute who holds a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and Chemistry in addition to a MPhil in Bio Chemistry. She is currently a medical student pursuing a degree in Medicine and Surgery.