A small fynbos shrub could help prevent breast cancer. Picture Leon Lestrade

Cape Town - A small fynbos shrub could help prevent breast cancer.

The plant Cyclopia, which is used to make Honeybush tea, may help to stop the development of breast cancer.

This is according to the doctoral study of Dr Koch Visser, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of biochemistry at Stellenbosch University.

Visser looked at the effect of Cyclopia extracts on breast cancer cells to figure out the possible molecular mechanism behind this effect.

“We found that Cyclopia extracts prevent the oestrogen-induced growth of breast cancer cells by targeting and inhibiting oestrogen receptor subtypes that promote the growth of these cells,” Visser said.

The female hormone oestrogen performs its physiological function through these receptor subtypes.

“The fact that Cyclopia extracts target the receptor subtypes sheds light on the possible mechanism by which the extracts regulate the growth of breast cancer cells. I’m particularly excited about the discovery that Cyclopia extracts are absorbed through the digestive tract while remaining non-toxic, even at high concentrations. Also, the extracts do not stimulate the growth of the uterus.”

Visser said this finding was important as several studies had shown certain drugs used to treat breast cancer increased risk of cancer of the uterus.

“There’s a possibility that this research could offer respite to women who may be diagnosed with breast cancer in future, especially considering the global need to better understand the development and progression of this disease in order to treat it effectively.”

He said Cyclopia was freely available and sold commercially as Honeybush.

“At this stage it is still too early to say with certainty what the final form of the medicine made from Cyclopia will be and how often it will have to be used.”

Visser said women aged 50 and older could benefit from research on Cyclopia because they had a greater chance of developing breast cancer.

He said that although the results of the study seemed promising, this type of research was still in its infancy.

“We are confident that we are on the right track and that we can contribute to the pool of knowledge about how breast cancer develops.” - Cape Argus

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