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Anti-cancer Properties of Nigella Sativa (Recent Advances)

Nigella sativa (blackseed)

Nigella sativa, also known as black seed is a plant that has been extensively studied, in vivo and in vitro. The below table is a summary of experimental findings related to the ability of Nigella sativa to exert anti-proliferative, pro-apoptotic, anti-oxidant, cytotoxic, anti-mutagenic, anti-metastatic, and NK cytotoxic activity enhancing effects against various primary cancer cells and cancer cell lines.

ActivityNigella sativa
Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effectsStimulation of anti-proliferative effects on MCF-7 cells [1].
Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects Reduction in frequency of mammary papillary, comedo, and cribriform carcinoma in DMBA-induced carcinomamodel [2].
Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects Reduction in serum levels of total sialic acid (TSA), lipid-bound sialic acid (LSA), prolactin, estradiol, progesterone, serum TNF a , tissue caspase-3 activity, and DNA fragmentation [2].
Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effectsAmelioration of diethylnitrosamine-induced hepatocarcinogenesis [3].
Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects Induction of late-stage apoptosis and/or necrosis as well as inhibition of both DNA synthesis and cell proliferation in HepG2 cells [4,5].
Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effectsProtection against diethylnitrosamine-induced hepatocellular adenoma [6].
Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects Reduction of serum AFP levels, relative liver weight, and activities of hexokinase, glyceraldehyde phosphate dehydrogenase, and G6P dehydrogenase [7].
Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effectsInhibition of the two-stage initiation/promotion of skin carcinogenesis and delays the onset of skin papilloma [8].
Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effectsReduction of methylcholanthrene (MCA)-induced soft tissue sarcomas [8].
Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effectsReduction in formation of pre-neoplastic lesions for colon cancer [9].
Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effectsDelay in mortality of P815 mastocytoma bearing cells [10].
Anti-oxidant and cytotoxic effects Induction of cytotoxic effects against HepG2, MOLT4and LL/2 cells but no effects on normal cells [11].
Anti-oxidant and cytotoxic effectsInduction of cytotoxic effects against MCF-7 cells [1].
Anti-oxidant and cytotoxic effects Induction of cytotoxic effects against EAC, DLA, S-180 cells [12].
Anti-oxidant and cytotoxic effects Induction of cytotoxic effects against SCL, SCL-6, SCL-37 0 6, NUGC-4 cells [13].
Anti-oxidant and cytotoxic effects Reduction in expression of MDA and NO [14,15].
Anti-oxidant and cytotoxic effectsReduction in lipid peroxides and NO levels [2].
Anti-oxidant and cytotoxic effects No effect on not affect the level or catalytic activity of aspartate-aminotransferase, alanine-aminotransferase, and gamma-glutamyltransferase [16].
Anti-oxidant and cytotoxic effectsAmelioration of nephrotoxicity through reduction in creatinine and urea as well as elevation of GSH levels [17].
Anti-oxidant and cytotoxic effectsAmelioration of anti-cancer drug-induced hepatic cytotoxicity [18].
Anti-oxidant and cytotoxic effectsAmelioration of antibiotic-induced cytotoxicity in the thymus and spleen [19].
Anti-mutagenic effectsInhibition against MNNG mutagenicity [20].
Anti-mutagenic effectsEnhancement of DNA replication and reduction in chromosomal aberrations [20].
Anti-metastatic effects Down regulation of t-PA, u-PA, and PAI-1 [21].
Anti-metastatic effectsInhibition of liver metastasis [10].
Anti-metastatic effectsEnhancement of helper to suppressor T cell ratio and improvement of NK cytotoxic activity [22].
Anti-metastatic effectsImprovement and increase in cell numbers [23].
Effects on NK cytotoxic activityEnhanced killing of YAC-1 tumor cells [24].
Effects on NK cytotoxic activityIncrease in production of IFN g and TNF a [25].
Effects on NK cytotoxic activityIncrease in production and activity of granzyme A and N-acetyl- b - D -glucosaminidase [25].
Effects on NK cytotoxic activitySuppression of NK cytotoxic activity in CMV-infected mice [26].


Amin F. Majdalawieh, Muneera W. Fayyad. Recent advances on the anti-cancer properties of Nigella sativa, a widely used food additive. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine 7 (2016) 173e180″

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[2] Abd El-Aziz MA, Hassan HA, Mohamed MH, Meki AMA, Abdel-Ghaffar SKH, Hussein MR. The biochemical and morphological alterations following administration of melatonin, retinoic acid and Nigella sativa in mammary carcinoma: an animal model. Int J Exp Pathol 2005;86(6):383e96.
[3] Iddamaldeniya SS, Wickramasinghe N, Thabrew I, Ratnatunge N, Thammitiyagodage MG. Protection against diethylnitrosoamine-induced hepatocarcinogenesis by an indigenous medicine comprised of Nigella sativa, Hemidesmus indicus and Smilax glabra: a preliminary study. J Carcinog 2003;2(1):6.
[4] Thabrew MI, Mitry RR, Morsy MA, Hughes RD. Cytotoxic effects of a decoction of Nigella sativa, Hemidesmus indicus and Smilax glabra on human hepatoma HepG2 cells. Life Sci 2005;77(12):1319e30.
[5] Khan F, Kalamegam G, Gari M, Abuzenadah A, Chaudhary A, Al Qahtani M, et al. Evaluation of the effect of Nigella sativa extract on human hepatocellular adenocarcinoma cell line (HepG2) in vitro. BMC Genomics 2014;15(Suppl. 2):63.
[7] Abdel-Hamid NM, Abdel-Ghany MI, Nazmy MH, Amgad SW. Can methanolic extract of Nigella sativa seed affect glyco-regulatory enzymes in experimental hepatocellular carcinoma? Environ Health Prev Med 2013;18(1):49e56.
[8] Salomi MJ, Nair SC, Panikkar KR. Inhibitory effects of Nigella sativa and saffron (Crocus sativus) on chemical carcinogenesis in mice. Nutr Cancer 1991;16:67e72.
[9] Salim EI, Fukushima S. Chemopreventive potential of volatile oil from black cumin (Nigella sativa L.) seeds against rat colon carcinogenesis. Nutr Cancer 2003;45(2):195e202.
[10] Ait Mbarek M, Ait Mouse H, Elabbadi N, Bensalah M, Gamouh A, Aboufatima R, et al. Anti-tumor properties of blackseed (Nigella sativa L.) extracts. Braz J Med Biol Res 2007;40:839e47.
[11] Swamy SM, Tan BK. Cytotoxic and immunopotentiating effects of ethanolic extract of Nigella sativa L. seeds. J Ethnopharmacol 2000;70:1e7.
[12] Salomi NJ, Nair SC, Jayawardhanan KK, Varghese CD, Panikkar KR. Anti-tumour principles from Nigella sativa seeds. Cancer Lett 1992;63:41e6.
[13] Islam SN, Begum P, Ahsan T, Huque S, Ahsan M. Immunosuppressive and cytotoxic properties of Nigella sativa. Phytother Res 2004;18:395e8.
[14] Mabrouk GM, Moselhy SS, Zohny SF, Ali EM, Helal TE, Amin AA, et al. Inhibition of methylnitrosourea (MNU) induced oxidative stress and carcinogenesis by orally administered bee honey and Nigella grains in Sprague Dawely rats. J Exp Clin Cancer Res 2002;21:341e6.
[15] Hadi V, Kheirouri S, Alizadeh M, Khabbazi A, Hosseini H. Effects of Nigella sativa oil extract on inflammatory cytokine response and oxidative stress status in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Avicenna J Phytomed 2016;6(1):34e43.
[16] Zaoui A, Cherrah Y, Mahassini N, Alaoui K, Amarouch H, Hassar M. Acute and chronic toxicity of Nigella sativa fixed oil. Phytomedicine 2002;9(1):69e74.
[17] Ali BH. The effect of Nigella sativa oil on gentamicin nephrotoxicity in rats. Am J Chin Med 2004;32:49e55.
[18] Alenzi FQ, El-Bolkiny Yel-S, Salem ML. Protective effects of Nigella sativa oil and thymoquinone against toxicity induced by the anticancer drug cyclophosphamide. Br J Biomed Sci 2010;67(1):20e8.
[19] Ebaid H, Dkhil M, Zahran W, Feki M, Gabry M. Role of Nigella sativa in ameliorating chloramphenicol induced tissue damage in rats. J Med Plants Res 2011;5(2):280e8.
[20] Khader M, Bresgen N, Eckl PM. Antimutagenic effects of ethanolic extracts from selected Palestinian medicinal plants. J Ethnopharmacol 2010;127(2):319e24.
[21] Awad EM. In vitro decreases of the fibrinolytic potential of cultured human fibrosarcoma cell line, HT1080, by Nigella sativa oil. Phytomedicine 2005;129(1e2):100e7.
[22] El-Kadi A, Kandil O, Tabuni AM. Nigella sativa and cell mediated immunity. Arch AIDS Res 1989;1:232e3.
[25] Shabsoug B, Khalil R, Abuharfeil N. Enhancement of natural killer cell activity in vitro against human tumor cells by some plants from Jordan. J Immunotoxicol 2008;5:279e85.
[23] Abuharfeil NM, Salim M, Von Kleist S. Augmentation of natural killer cell activity in vivo against tumour cells by some wild plants from Jordan. Phytother Res 2001;15:109e13.
[24] Majdalawieh AF, Hmaidan R, Carr RI. Nigella sativa modulates splenocyte proliferation, Th1/Th2 cytokine profile, macrophage function and NK antitumor activity. J Ethnopharmacol 2010;131:268e75.
[26] Salem ML, Hossain MS. Protective effect of black seed oil from Nigella sativa against murine cytomegalovirus infection. Int J Immunopharmacol 2000;22:729e40.

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