Curcumin analogues extracted from Alpinia officinarum and Alnus japonica inhibited the FoxM1 signalling axis in a pancreatic cancer cell line


Alpinia officinarum or lesser galangal (高良姜), is a member of the ginger family, which originates from China and is now cultivated throughout Southeast Asia (Figure 1). The roots are known as galangal and are used in cooking, perfumes and are also known for their medicinal properties. Alnus japonica or East Asian alder (日本桤木), is a species of tree found in Japan, Korea, and eastern China, stretching to Russia. Diarylheptanoids, the family of which the anti-cancer agent curcumin from turmeric is a member, can be extracted from these plants. Diarylheptanoid compounds from these medicinal plants were found to inhibit the growth of the PANC-1 (KRAS heterozygous G12D, TP53 homozygous P72R and R273H) pancreatic cancer cell line [1, 2]. The mechanism was proposed to derive from inhibiting the FoxM1 transcription factor signalling axis.


Figure 1: Alpinia officinarum. Credit: Biodiversity Heritage Library. No changes were made. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).


FoxM1 is a transcription factor of central importance to pancreatic cancer [3]. It promotes the transcription of genes involved in cell cycle progression and cell survival as well as migration and invasion [4]. FoxM1 transcription has been demonstrated to be promoted by the sonic hedgehog pathway in colorectal cancer and furthermore the hedgehog pathway is almost universally upregulated in pancreatic cancer [5, 6]. Dong et al. proposed that FoxM1 target genes are downregulated in response to the diarylheptanoid compounds due to Gli1/2 protein downregulation. Interestingly Stat3 signalling has been found to be downregulated by other diarylheptanoid compounds such as HO-3867 and Stat3 transcription can be indirectly upregulated by Gli1 via IL-6 [7, 8]. The extent to which different diarylheptanoid compounds could inhibit both FoxM1 and Stat3 axes in pancreatic cancer  is an open question.  



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