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UA researchers discover component of cinnamon prevents colorectal cancer in mice

University of Arizona College of Pharmacy study shows compound that gives cinnamon its distinctive flavor and smell is a potent inhibitor

University of Arizona, College of Pharmacy

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IMAGE: Georg Wondrak (left) and Donna Zhang, researchers at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy and UA Cancer Center, discovered that a component of cinnamon prevents colorectal cancer in mice. view more

Credit: University of Arizona Biomedical Communications

Research conducted at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy and the UA Cancer Center indicates that a compound derived from cinnamon is a potent inhibitor of colorectal cancer.

Georg Wondrak, Ph.D., associate professor, and Donna Zhang, Ph.D., professor, both of the UA College of Pharmacy Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, recently completed a study in which they proved that adding cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its distinctive flavor and smell, to the diet of mice protected the mice against colorectal cancer. In response to cinnamaldehyde, the animals' cells had acquired the ability to protect themselves against exposure to a carcinogen through detoxification and repair.

'This is a significant finding,' says Zhang, who, along with Wondrak, is a member of the UA Cancer Center. 'Because colorectal cancer is aggressive and associated with poor prognoses, there is an urgent need to develop more effective strategies against this disease.'

'Given cinnamon's important status as the third-most-consumed spice in the world,' Wondrak adds, 'there's relatively little research on its potential health benefits. If we can ascertain the positive effects of cinnamon, we would like to leverage this opportunity to potentially improve the health of people around the globe.'

Drs. Wondrak and Zhang's study, 'Nrf2-dependent suppression of azoxymethane/dextrane sulfate sodium-induced colon carcinogenesis by the cinnamon-derived dietary factor cinnamaldehyde,' has been published online and will appear in a print issue of Cancer Prevention Research later this spring.

A story about the cinnamaldehyde study appears on the UA College of Pharmacy's website.

The next step in the research is to test whether cinnamon, as opposed to cinnamaldehyde, prevents cancer using this same cancer model. Because cinnamon is a common food additive already considered safe -- it's not a synthetic, novel drug -- a study in humans may not be too far off.

Wondrak outlines questions to investigate going forward: 'Can cinnamon do it, now that we know pure cinnamaldehyde can? And can we use cinnamaldehyde or cinnamon as a weapon to go after other major diseases, such as inflammatory dysregulation and diabetes? These are big questions to which we might be able to provide encouraging answers using a very common spice.'

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About the UA College of Pharmacy

Established in 1947, the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy was the first health sciences college at the Tucson campus of the University of Arizona. Educating pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists, the college participates in many interdisciplinary and multi-institutional educational and research collaborations throughout Arizona and globally. It is ranked among the premier colleges of pharmacy in the United States and is routinely among the top 20 colleges of pharmacy in terms of external funding for research, including funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Research reported in this release was supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under grant number 5R21CA166926-02.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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