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J Carcinog. 2006 May 9;5:11.

A long-term investigation of the anti-hepatocarcinogenic potential of an indigenous medicine comprised of Nigella sativa, Hemidesmus indicus and Smilax glabra.

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Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sri Jayawardenepura, Gangodawila, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka.



A decoction comprised of Nigella sativa seeds, Hemidesmus indicus root bark and Smilax glabra rhizome is being recommended for cancer patients by a family of traditional medical practitioners of Sri Lanka. Previous investigations have demonstrated that a short term (10 weeks) treatment with the decoction can significantly inhibit diethylnitrosamine (DEN) mediated expression of Glutathione S-transferase P form (GST-P) in rat liver. The objective of the present investigation was to determine whether long term (16 months) treatment with the decoction would be successful in inhibiting in rat livers, not only DEN- mediated expression of GST-P, but also the carcinogen mediated development of overt tumours (OT) or histopathological changes leading to tumour development (HT).


Thirty-six male Wistar rats were divided into 3 groups of 12 each. Groups 1 and 2 were injected intraperitoneally (i.p) with DEN (200 mg/kg) while group 3 was injected normal saline (NS). Twenty-four hours later, decoction (DC; 6 g/kg body weight/day) was orally administered to group 1 rats, while groups 2 and 3 (DEN-control and normal control) were given distilled water (DW). Treatment with DC or DW continued for 16 months. At the end of the 9th month and 16th months (study 1 and study 2 respectively), six rats from each group were sacrificed, and livers observed for OT or HT, both visually and by subjecting liver sections to staining with Haemotoxylin and Eosin (H & E), Sweet's Silver stain (for reticulin fibers), Periodic Acid Schiff (PAS) staining (for glycogen), and immunohistochemical staining (for GST-P).


At the end of 9 months (study 1) a hepatocellular adenoma (HA) developed in one of the rats in the DEN + DW treated group (group 2). At the end of 16 months (study 2), livers of all rats of group 2 developed OT and HT. Large areas of GST-P positive foci were also observed. No OT, HT or GST-P positive foci were detected in any of the other groups.


Protection against DEN-mediated carcinogenic changes in rat liver can be achieved by long term treatment with the DC comprised of N. sativa seeds, S. glabra rhizome and H. indicus root bark.

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