Elucidation of Active Anticancer Agents in Naturally Occurring Substances: HONEY
Arch Surg. 2001;136:600.
In their concise study using an allogeneic model, Hamzaolu et al1 provide evidence that Ehrlich ascites tumor implantation is inhibited by the prior and concurrent local injection of honey. The authors propose that this method of tumor implant prevention may be applicable to the prevention of tumor in surgical wounds, particularly those wounds created during laparoscopic procedures. Tumor implantation in such wounds has complicated the management of colorectal cancer and gallbladder carcinoma.
This is yet another example of the application of naturally occurring substances in medicine. Although one may quibble with the details of this allogeneic model and the method of tumor manipulation, the results provide evidence that the manipulation of the wound as described by the authors has the ability to prevent successful metastasis in their model. However, as with many naturally derived substances, whether their use has been defined through folk medicine, serendipitous observation, or by the identification of substances synthesized for a purpose and found only in retrospect to be present in nature, to have a truly solid basis in scientific surgical practice, the exact component or combination of components responsible for the effect must be elucidated.
Like cinchona bark, the bark of the Pacific yew, or antibiotics from molds, the scientific and therapeutic application of technology is dependent on identifying specific active agents and the mechanism of action to be a true medical advance. The seeming simplicity and availability of honey lends itself to careful experimentation to these ends.
Philip D. Schneider, MD,PhD