Stop Cancer: NF-kB reduction by black cumin

Dr. Weeks’ Comment: A recently published paper by the Salk Institute documents the discovery of a key feature of why glioblastoma tumor cells proliferate so quickly.  The tumors activate a transcription factor enzyme “NF-Kappa B” which migrates to the nucleus during inflammation.  Interestingly, when NF-Kappa B was activated, the tumor cells proliferated, and blocking NF-Kappa B slowed growth and increased survival in animal models.  This certainly identifies NF-kB as a therapeutic target.  


Unfortunately, finding compounds that would safely block or reduce NF-kB translocation to the nucleus were not identified in the paper.  However, the following articles available from PubMed demonstrated for us that the ingredients in SOUL and CORE significantly reduce NF-kB inflammatory and carcinogenic protein levels.

These articles below focus on how black cumin seed reduces the cancer promoting effect of the inflammatory agent NF-kB.   Specific cancers are investigated: bone cancer, pancreatic cancer, gall bladder cancer, brain cancer and quite intriguingly, we discover that using black cumin seed along with conventional chemotherapeutic agents is synergistic – more beneficial than just the chemo alone.


Black cumin seed BLOCKS NF-kB to remedy CANCER

Nutr Cancer. 2010;62(7):938-46. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2010.509832.

Review on molecular and therapeutic potential of thymoquinone in cancer.

Banerjee S1, et al



Thymoquinone (TQ) is the predominant bioactive constituent present in black seed oil (Nigella sativa) and has been tested for its efficacy against cancer. Here, we summarize the literature about TQ’s molecular mechanism of action and its ability to induce apoptosis and inhibit tumor growth in preclinical models. TQ has anti-inflammatory effects, and it inhibits tumor cell proliferation through modulation of apoptosis signaling, inhibition of angiogenesis, and cell cycle arrest. Chemosensitization by TQ is mostly limited to in vitro studies, and it has potential in therapeutic strategy for cancer. The results favor efficacy and enhancement of therapeutic benefit against tumor cells resistant to therapy based on cellular targets that are molecular determinants for cancer cell survival and progression. There have been attempts to synthesize novel analogs of TQ directed toward superior effects in killing tumor cells with more enhanced chemosensitizing potential than parent TQ compound. Based on published reports, we believe that further in-depth studies are warranted including investigation of its bioavailability and Phase I toxicity profiling in human subjects. The results from such studies will be instrumental in advancing this field in support of initiating clinical trials for testing the effects of this ancient agent in cancer therapy.


Mol Cancer Res. 2008 Jun;6(6):1059-70. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-07-2088.

Targeting nuclear factor-kappa B activation pathway by thymoquinone: role in suppression of antiapoptotic gene products and enhancement of apoptosis.

Sethi G1, et al


Thymoquinone (TQ), derived from the medicinal plant Nigella sativa, exhibits antiinflammatory and anticancer activities through mechanism(s) that is not fully understood. Because numerous effects modulated by TQ can be linked to interference with the nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappa B) signaling, we investigated in detail the effect of this quinone on NF-kappa B pathway. As examined by DNA binding, we found that TQ suppressed tumor necrosis factor-induced NF-kappa B activation in a dose- and time-dependent manner and inhibited NF-kappaB activation induced by various carcinogens and inflammatory stimuli. The suppression of NF-kappaB activation correlated with sequential inhibition of the activation of I kappa B alpha kinase, I kappa B alpha phosphorylation, I kappa B alpha degradation, p65 phosphorylation, p65 nuclear translocation, and the NF-kappa B-dependent reporter gene expression. TQ specifically suppressed the direct binding of nuclear p65 and recombinant p65 to the DNA, and this binding was reversed by DTT. However, TQ did not inhibit p65 binding to DNA when cells were transfected with the p65 plasmid containing cysteine residue 38 mutated to serine. TQ also down-regulated the expression of NF-kappa B-regulated antiapoptotic (IAP1, IAP2, XIAP Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, and survivin), proliferative (cyclin D1, cyclooxygenase-2, and c-Myc), and angiogenic (matrix metalloproteinase-9 and vascular endothelial growth factor) gene products. This led to potentiation of apoptosis induced by tumor necrosis factor and chemotherapeutic agents. Overall, our results indicate that the anticancer and antiinflammatory activities previously assigned to TQ may be mediated in part through the suppression of the NF-kappa B activation pathway, as shown here, and thus may have potential in treatment of myeloid leukemia and other cancers




Oncol Rep. 2013 Feb;29(2):571-8. doi: 10.3892/or.2012.2165. Epub 2012 Dec 4.

Antitumor and anti-angiogenesis effects of thymoquinone on osteosarcoma through the NF-κB pathway.

Peng L1, et al


Thymoquinone (TQ), the predominant bioactive constituent derived from the medicinal spice Nigella sativa (also known as black cumin), has been applied for medical purposes for more than 2,000 years. Recent studies reported that thymoquinone exhibited inhibitory effects on the cell proliferation of several cancer cell lines. This study was performed to investigate the antitumor and anti-angiogenic effects of thymoquinone on osteosarcoma in vitro and in vivo. Our results showed that thymoquinone induced a higher percentage of growth inhibition and apoptosis in the human osteosarcoma cell line SaOS-2 compared to that of control, and thymoquinone significantly blocked human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) tube formation in a dose-dependent manner. To investigate the possible mechanisms involved in these events, we performed electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and western blot analysis, and found that thymoquinone significantly downregulated NF-κB DNA-binding activity, XIAP, survivin and VEGF in SaOS-2 cells. Moreover, the expression of cleaved caspase-3 and Smac were upregulated in SaOS-2 cells after treatment with thymoquinone. In addition to these in vitro results, we also found that thymoquinone inhibits tumor angiogenesis and tumor growth through suppressing NF-κB and its regulated molecules. Collectively, our results demonstrate that thymoquinone effectively inhibits tumor growth and angiogenesis both in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, inhibition of NF-κB and downstream effector molecules is a possible underlying mechanism of the antitumor and anti-angiogenic activity of thymoquinone in osteosarcoma.




Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2011 Aug;46(8):910-4.

[Anti-metastasis effect of thymoquinone on human pancreatic cancer].

Wu ZH1, et al


Recent studies reported that thymoquinone (TQ), a component derived from the medicinal spice Nigella sativa (also called black cumin), exhibited inhibitory effects on cell proliferation of many cancer cell lines. This study was performed to investigate the anti-metastatic effect of thymoquinone on the pancreatic cancer in vitro and in vivo. The results showed that thymoquinone suppressed the migration and invasion of Panc-1 cells in a does-dependent manner. To investigate the possible mechanisms involved in these events, Western blotting analysis was performed, and found that thymoquinone significantly down-regulates NF-kappaB and MMP-9 in Panc-1 cells. In addition, metastatic model simulating human pancreatic cancer was established by orthotropic implantation of histologically intact pancreatic tumor tissue into the pancreatic wall of nude mice. And administration of thymoquinone significantly reduced tumor metastasis compared to untreated control. Furthermore, the expression of NF-kappaB and MMP-9 in tumor tissues was also suppressed after treatment with thymoquinone. Taken together, the results indicate that thymoquinone exerts anti-metastatic activity on pancreatic cancer both in vitro and in vivo, which may be related to down-regulation of NF-kappaB and its regulated molecules such as MMP-9 protein. Consequently, these results provide important insights into thymoquinone as an antimetastatic agent for the treatment of human pancreatic cancer.


Pharm Res. 2010 Jun;27(6):1146-58. doi: 10.1007/s11095-010-0145-3. Epub 2010 Apr 27.

Structure-activity studies on therapeutic potential of Thymoquinone analogs in pancreatic cancer.

Banerjee S1, et al


Pancreatic cancer (PC) is one of the deadliest of all tumors. Previously, we were the first to show that Thymoquinone (TQ) derived from black seed (Nigella sativa) oil has anti-tumor activity against PC. However, the concentration of TQ required was considered to be high to show this efficacy. Therefore, novel analogs of TQ with lower IC(50) are highly desirable.


We have synthesized a series of 27 new analogs of TQ by modifications at the carbonyl sites or the benzenoid sites using single pot synthesis and tested their biological activity in PC cells.


Among these compounds, TQ-2G, TQ-4A1 and TQ-5A1 (patent pending) were found to be more potent than TQ in terms of inhibition of cell growth, induction of apoptosis and modulation of transcription factor-NF-kappaB. We also found that our novel analogs were able to sensitize gemcitabine and oxaliplatin-induced apoptosis in MiaPaCa-2 (gemcitabine resistant) PC cells, which was associated with down-regulation of Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, survivin, XIAP, COX-2 and the associated Prostaglandin E2.


From our results, we conclude that three of our novel TQ analogs warrant further investigation against PC, especially in combination with conventional chemotherapeutic agents.




Oncol Rep. 2014 May;31(5):2063-70. doi: 10.3892/or.2014.3059. Epub 2014 Mar 5.

Thymoquinone induces G2/M arrest, inactivates PI3K/Akt and nuclear factor-κB pathways in human cholangiocarcinomas both in vitro and in vivo.

Xu D1, et al


Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is a notoriously lethal tumor mostly due to the de novo or acquired resistance to traditional chemotherapy besides gemcitabine and, therefore, an increasing need for effective strategies to prevent and treat the poor prognosis of this tumor is required. Thymoquinone (TQ), a hopeful natural product derived from black cumin (Nigella sativa) has shown considerable antineoplastic properties. Whether TQ exerts antitumor effects on CCA cells in vitro and in vivo remains unknown. Examinations of cell viability assay, detection of cell cycle and apoptosis, electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), western blotting and immunohistochemistry were used in the present study. We demonstrated that TQ inhibited the growth of human CCA cell lines (TFK-1 and HuCCT1) in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Firstly, our results provided evidence that TQ not only inhibits the proliferation of CCA cells, induces cell cycle arrest and prompts cell apoptotic effect in vitro, but it also exhibits inhibitory effects of tumor growth and angiogenesis in vivo. The responsible mechanism is at least partially due to TQ inhibiting the growth of CCA cell lines induced by downregulation of PI3K/Akt and NF-κB and regulated gene products, including p-AKT, p65, XIAP, Bcl-2, COX-2, VEGF. Taken together, these results provide strong evidence of our hypothesis that TQ alone presents a promising therapeutic regimen for the treatment of CCA cells with better efficiency.





Cell Physiol Biochem. 2015;35(3):913-25. doi: 10.1159/000369748. Epub 2015 Jan 30.

DNA damage-induced NF-κB activation in human glioblastoma cells promotes miR-181b expression and cell proliferation.

Xu RX1, et al

Abstract Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and most aggressive form of brain cancer. After surgery, radiotherapy is the mainstay of treatment for GBM patients. Unfortunately, the vast majority of GBM patients fail responding to radiotherapy because GBM cells remain highly resistant to radiation. Radiotherapy-induced DNA damage response may correlate with therapeutic resistance.


IR-induced DNA damage activated NF-κB in GBM cells which promoted expression of IL-6, IL-8 and Bcl-xL, thereby contributing to cell survival and invasion. Knockdown SENP2 expression enhanced NF-κB essential modulator (NEMO) SUMOylation and NF-κB activity following IR exposure. miR-181b targets SENP2 and positively regulated NF-κB activity.


NF-κB activation by DNA damage in GBM cells confers resistance to radiation-induced death.



Expert Rev Neurother. 2014 Nov;14(11):1293-306. doi: 10.1586/14737175.2014.964211. Epub 2014 Sep 29.

NF-κB and STAT3 in glioblastoma: therapeutic targets coming of age.

Gray GK1, et al


Since we last addressed the roles of NF-κB and JAK/STAT3 signaling in glioblastoma (GBM) 5 years ago, tremendous strides have been made in the understanding of these two pathways in glioma biology. Contributing to prosurvival mechanisms, cancer stem cell maintenance and treatment resistance, both NF-κB and STAT3 have been characterized as major drivers of GBM. In this review, we address general improvements in the molecular understanding of GBM, the structure of NF-κB and STAT3 signaling, the ways in which these pathways contribute to GBM and advances in preclinical and clinical targeting of these two signaling cascades.


Am J Chin Med. 2014;42(2):485-503. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X14500323.

Triptolide synergistically enhances temozolomide-induced apoptosis and potentiates inhibition of NF-κB signaling in glioma initiating cells.

Sai K1, et al


Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a lethal solid cancer in adults. Temozolomide (TMZ) is a first-line chemotherapeutic agent but the efficacy is limited by intrinsic and acquired resistance in GBM. Triptolide (TPL), a derivative from traditional Chinese medicine, demonstrated anti-tumor activity. In this study, we explored the interaction of TPL and TMZ in glioma-initiating cells (GICs) and the potential mechanism. A GIC line (GIC-1) was successfully established. Cell viability of GIC-1 after treatment was measured using a CCK-8 assay. The interaction between TPL and TMZ was calculated from Chou-Talalay equations and isobologram. Self-renewal was evaluated with tumor sphere formation assay. Apoptosis was assessed with flow cytometry and western blot. Luciferase assay was employed to measure NF-κB transcriptional activity. The expression of NF-κB downstream genes, NF-κB nuclear translocalization and phoshorylation of IκBα and p65 were evaluated using western blot. We found that GIC-1 cells were resistant to TMZ, with the expected IC50 of 705.7 μmol/L. Co-treatment with TPL yielded a more than three-fold dose reduction of TMZ. TPL significantly increased the percentage of apoptotic cells and suppressed the tumor sphere formation when combined with TMZ. Phosphorylation of IκBα and p65 coupled with NF-κB nuclear translocalization were notably inhibited after a combined treatment. Co-incubation synergistically repressed NF-κB transcriptional activity and downstream gene expression. TPL sensitizes GICs to TMZ by synergistically enhancing apoptosis, which is likely resulting from the augmented repression of NF-κB signaling. TPL is therefore a potential chemosensitizer in the treatment of GBM.


Cancer Biol Ther. 2014 May;15(5):602-11. doi: 10.4161/cbt.28158. Epub 2014 Feb 20.

The NFκB inhibitor, SN50, induces differentiation of glioma stem cells and suppresses their oncogenic phenotype.

Zhang L1, et al


The malignant phenotype of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is believed to be largely driven by glioma stem-like cells (GSCs), and targeting GSCs is now considered a promising new approach to treatment of this devastating disease. Here, we show that SN50, a cell-permeable peptide inhibitor of NFκB, induced robust differentiation of human GSCs, causing loss of their oncogenic potential. We observed that following treatment of GSCs with SN50, their differentiated progeny cells showed significant decreases in their capability to form neuro-spheres and to invade in vitro and a reduction in their tumorigenicity in mouse xenograft models, but had increased sensitivity to the chemotherapeutic drug temozolomide and to radiation treatment. These results suggest that blocking the NFκB pathway may be explored as a useful mean to induce differentiation of GSCs, and provide another supportive evidence for the promise of differentiation therapy in treatment of malignant brain tumors.




J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2010 Jul 1;29:87. doi: 10.1186/1756-9966-29-87.

Thymoquinone and cisplatin as a therapeutic combination in lung cancer: In vitro and in vivo.

Jafri SH1, et al


Thymoquinone (TQ) is a compound extracted from Black Caraway seeds of Nigella Sativa and is active against various cancers. Cisplatin (CDDP) is the most active chemotherapeutic agent in Lung Cancer. Here we report activity of TQ against non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) cell lines alone and in combination with Cisplatin (CDDP).


For proliferation MTT assay, cell viability trypan blue assay and for apoptosis Annexin-V FITC assay were used in NCI-H460 and NCI-H146 cell lines. Inhibition of invasion by TQ was assessed using Matrigel assay and its affect on release of various cytokines was determined using RayBio Human Cytokine detection kit. Mouse xenograft model using NCI-H460 was used to determine in vivo activity of TQ and CDDP. Inhibition of LPS induced NF-kappaB expression by TQ was determined using transgenic mice expressing a luciferase reporter.


TQ was able to inhibit cell proliferation, reduce cell viability and induce apoptosis. TQ at 100 microM and CDDP at 5 muM inhibited cell proliferation by nearly 90% and the combination showed synergism. TQ was able to induced apoptosis in both NCI-H460 and NCI-H146 cell lines. TQ also appears to affect the extracellular environment inhibiting invasion and reducing the production of two cytokines ENA-78 and Gro-alpha which are involved in neo-angiogenesis. Using a mouse xenograft model we were able to demonstrate that combination of TQ and CDDP was well tolerated and significantly reduced tumor volume and tumor weight without additional toxicity to the mice. In the combination arms (TQ5 mg/kg/Cis 2.5 mg/kg) tumor volume was reduced by 59% and (TQ20 mg/kg/Cis 2.5 mg/kg) by 79% as compared to control which is consistent with in vitro data. TQ down regulated NF-kappaB expression which may explain its various cellular activities and this activity may prove useful in overcoming CDDP resistance from over expression of NF-kappaB.

CONCLUSIONS: Thus TQ and CDDP appear to be an active therapeutic combination in lung cancer.



Cancer Res. 2009 Jul 1;69(13):5575-83. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-4235. Epub 2009 Jun 23.

Antitumor activity of gemcitabine and oxaliplatin is augmented by thymoquinone in pancreatic cancer.

Banerjee S1, et al


Previous studies have shown biological activity of thymoquinone, an active compound extracted from Nigella sativa, in pancreatic cancer cells; however, preclinical animal studies are lacking. Here, we report, for the first time, the chemosensitizing effect of thymoquinone to conventional chemotherapeutic agents both in vitro and in vivo using an orthotopic model of pancreatic cancer. In vitro studies revealed that preexposure of cells with thymoquinone (25 mumol/L) for 48 h followed by gemcitabine or oxaliplatin resulted in 60% to 80% growth inhibition compared with 15% to 25% when gemcitabine or oxaliplatin was used alone. Moreover, we found that thymoquinone could potentiate the killing of pancreatic cancer cells induced by chemotherapeutic agents by down-regulation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB), Bcl-2 family, and NF-kappaB-dependent antiapoptotic genes (X-linked inhibitors of apoptosis, survivin, and cyclooxygenase-2). As shown previously by our laboratory, NF-kappaB gets activated on exposure of pancreatic cancer cells to conventional chemotherapeutic agents; interestingly, thymoquinone was able to down-regulate NF-kappaB in vitro, resulting in chemosensitization. In addition to in vitro results, here we show for the first time, that thymoquinone in combination with gemcitabine and/or oxaliplatin is much more effective as an antitumor agent compared with either agent alone. Most importantly, our data also showed that a specific target, such as NF-kappaB, was inactivated in animal tumors pretreated with thymoquinone followed by gemcitabine and/or oxaliplatin. These results provide strong in vivo molecular evidence in support of our hypothesis that thymoquinone could abrogate gemcitabine- or oxaliplatin-induced activation of NF-kappaB, resulting in the chemosensitization of pancreatic tumors to conventional therapeutics.


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