These Herbs and Vegetables May Prevent Breast Cancer From Spreading


Thyme and parsley are often used to season dishes and spice up meals, but ingesting these herbs, and certain vegetables, can also help to reduce the risk of breast cancer metastasis.

According to recent studies from the University of Missouri, certain herbs and vegetables can aid in reducing the risk of the cancer spreading in cases of women diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. This is the most serious type of breast cancer and has the highest risk of spreading to other parts of the body.

Triple-negative breast medullary carcinoma. Credit: Sarahkayb/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Triple-negative breast cancer is often treated aggressively and, in some cases, highly toxic. It is the most deadly form of breast cancer, as it does not contain the receptors that are currently targeted by chemotherapy treatments. Therefore, other types of treatment are necessary to kill these cancer cells but can often be extreme in nature.

Instances of triple-negative breast cancer make up 15 to 20 percent of all breast cancer cases and unfortunately not respond to chemotherapy. The majority of deaths from triple-negative breast cancer occur within three to five years of diagnosis. Additionally, triple-negative breast cancer is far more likely to metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body through the blood or lymphatic system.

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Salman Hyder of the University of Missouri, lead researcher on this project, found that a compound in certain herbs and vegetables can prevent this type of cancer from metastasizing. Luteolin is a compound formed by nature that, when tested, showed results in the prevention of metastasis. It is commonly known to prevent other types of cancer, but has not been previously tested in cases of triple-negative breast cancer.

Oregano leaf. Credit: María Leandro/Flickr, CC BY-SA 4.0

Specifically, Luteolin is found in celery, broccoli, green pepper, chamomile tea, carrots, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary, navel oranges, and oregano to name a few.

“Mice exposed to human triple-negative breast cancer cells experienced significantly reduced metastastic growth in their lungs after being treated with luteolin,” said Dr. Hyder. “In almost every case, the mice also saw no weight loss, which means luteolin has no toxic effects; this plant compound is both safe and effective.”

The team grew human triple-negative breast cancer cells in mice and then tested luteonin to see if it would inhibit the spreading of the cancer cells. The results showed that the cancer cells were subdued when treated with luteonin, and that it can even kill cancer cells.

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“Triple-negative breast cancer cells are highly mobile in the body, which helps them metastasize to other organs throughout the body,” Hyder said. “We found that luteolin inhibits that migration and also can kill cancer cells. We contend that these studies support further investigation of luteolin as an anti-metastatic agent that could be used to combat triple-negative breast cancer and its metastasis.”

While this study was performed only in mice, the early-stage results show promise when it comes to treating this otherwise deadly form of breast cancer. Therapeutic remedies for metastasis are currently under investigation, and if luteonin can be easily sourced from plants and herbs, it can provide a viable alternative to the current, more aggressive forms of prevention and treatment.