Scientists Find Link Between Aristolochic Acid And Liver Cancer

A joint Singapore-Taiwan research has revealed a link between aristolochic acid (AA) and liver cancer.

AsianScientist (Aug. 19, 2013) – A joint Singapore-Taiwan team has made a breakthrough in understanding the cancer-promoting action of a compound found in some Asian herbal remedies for weight loss and slimming.

Aristolochic acid (AA), a natural product of Aristolochia plants, is commonly used in traditional herbal preparations for various health problems such as weight-loss, menstrual symptoms and rheumatism. It was officially banned in Europe and North America since 2001 and in Asia since 2003, after it was found to cause more DNA mutations than cigarette smoke or ultraviolet light.

However, its long-term impact is still being felt as patients with associated kidney failure and cancer are still being diagnosed, especially in Taiwan. In addition, certain AA-containing products are still permitted under supervision and products containing AA are still easily available over the internet.

Using advanced DNA sequencing technologies, the team of researchers from the National Cancer Centre Singapore, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore, and Taiwan’s Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, LinKou identified a “genetic fingerprint” of AA exposure that may pave the way to new approaches to detect AA presence in humans and the environment.

The Singapore-Taiwan team also discovered that besides its previously known contribution to kidney failure and a form of kidney cancer, AA may also contribute to liver cancer.

“AA’s contributions to kidney failure and cancer have been documented, but AA’s possible role in other cancer types was unknown. In this study, we found that the AA-related DNA fingerprint could be used to screen for the potential involvement of AA in other cancers, such as liver cancer,” said Dr Poon Song Ling, the lead author of the study.

Prof See-Tong Pang, one of the senior authors on the study, called for greater public awareness on the adverse health effects of AA, and urged consumers to find out the contents of herbal products before purchasing them.

The article can be found at: Poon SL et al. (2013) Genome-Wide Mutational Signatures of Aristolochic Acid and Its Application as a Screening Tool.


Source: SingHealth; Photo: romainguy/Flickr/CC.
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