Glucosamine, which is found in supplements that protect joints, probably also inhibits a number of cancer types that are difficult to treat. Molecular biologists at the Beckman Research Institute in California discovered this. Glucosamine deactivates the STAT3 gene in cancer cells. Doctors find it more difficult to treat tumours in which this gene is active.
The researchers studied DU145 prostate cancer cells. The cells were extracted from the brain of a man with prostate cancer who already had secondaries.
When the researchers added a few micromoles of glucosamine to the cells, their growth decreased, see below. In the lower figure you can see that at these concentrations up to nearly fifty percent of the cancer cells died. Glucosamine doesn’t have this effect on healthy cells, by the way.
Healthy cells self-destruct if they go 'off course' in any way. This 'programmed suicide' has been deactivated in cancer cells. In the prostate cancer cells that the researchers used this happened, as the STAT3 gene caused excessive protein to be produced.
The STAT3 protein is active when the cell attaches a phosphorus group to the Tyr705 piece of that protein. Glucosamine hampers this process, as you can see below. And in the lower figure you can see the result of this sabotage: the cancer cells produce less of the enzyme survivin. Survivin prevents cells from self destructing.
Lastly, the researchers compared the effect of glucosamine on 4 types of cancer cells. In HeLa cells glucosamine reduced their viability, but in two other cancer cell types there was no change. HeLa cells are cervical cancer cells.
Just as you'd expect, the researchers conclude. The STAT-3 gene is what goes crazy in HeLa cells, but not in other types of cancer cells.