HKBU Finds ‘Cryptotanshinone’ May Treat Gastric Cancer Caused by Bile Reflux

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A study by Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU)’s School of Chinese Medicine found that the compound “cryptotanshinone” extracted from Salvia miltiorrhiza has the potential to treat and prevent gastric cancer associated with bile reflux.

The study has also found that refluxed bile acids can cause inflammation-causing bacteria to multiply, which leads to gastric cancer. The relevant research results have been published in Advanced Science, an international scientific journal.

The research team analyzed the gastric juice samples of 50 patients with bile reflux gastritis, 50 patients with gastric cancer, and 45 subjects in the control group and found that the amount of bile acids in the gastric juice samples of the bile reflux gastritis and gastric cancer groups was significantly higher than that of the control group.

Bile acids are weak acids that flow into the stomach and upset the normal acid-base balance of gastric juices.

The researchers also examined the above 145 gastric juice samples and found that in the bile reflux gastritis and gastric cancer groups, the concentration of the cytokine “lipopolysaccharide,” which causes inflammation, was also higher than that in the control group. And the number of bacteria that produced “lipopolysaccharide” was also significantly higher. In particular, the number of “Prevotella Melaninogenica” was the highest in the control group.

The team believes that bile reflux causes significant changes in the internal environment of the stomach, resulting in changes in the microbiota in the stomach, leading to the development of gastritis and gastric cancer.

The researchers conducted experiments on mice. Cellular and molecular analysis showed that Prevotella Melaninogenica promoted inflammation in the stomach of the mice by activating the IL-6/JAK1/STAT3 pathway. The “IL-6/JAK1/STAT3 pathway” is a chain of interaction between a series of proteins in cells and is related to immunity, cell division, cell death, and tumor formation.

“Cryptotanshinone” extracted from the root of Salvia miltiorrhiza is a known inhibitor of the cellular STAT3 signaling pathway. The researchers induced bile reflux in experimental mice surgically. In a group of eight mice that did not receive “cryptotanshinone,” three of them developed gastric lesions 50 weeks after surgery. In the other group of 6 mice injected with “cryptotanshinone,” no obvious gastric lesions were observed.

The team concluded that the results showed that cryptotanshinone could eliminate the activation of the IL-6/JAK1/STAT3 pathway by lipopolysaccharide and taurodeoxycholic acid.

Jia Wei, Associate Dean of the School of Chinese Medicine, HKBU, pointed out that the results of the study show that “cryptotanshinone” is a potential Chinese medicine-based drug that can be used to prevent and treat gastric cancer caused by bile reflux. The new discovery of the mechanism of bile reflux-induced gastric cancer also provides another strategy for the development of related drugs.

Vincent Lam


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