Liver cancer remains a significant global health challenge, ranking as the third leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide. Despite advancements in medical science, effective treatments for liver cancer remain limited. However, recent research suggests that methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), an organic sulfur-containing compound, may offer a promising avenue for liver cancer treatment.
The Global Liver Cancer Challenge
Liver cancer, primarily hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), poses a major health threat globally, with hundreds of thousands of new cases diagnosed each year. This malignancy is closely associated with risk factors such as hepatitis B and C infections, excessive alcohol consumption, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Despite medical advancements, liver cancer continues to be a challenging disease to treat effectively.
MSM: A Natural Compound with Anti-Cancer Properties
Methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, is a naturally occurring compound found in various foods and sources. It is structurally related to dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and dimethyl sulfone (DMSO2), and it has gained attention for its potential health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Unveiling the Potential of MSM in Liver Cancer
In recent years, researchers have turned their attention to the possible role of MSM in cancer therapy. A study led by Joo-Hyun Kim and colleagues explored the effects of MSM on liver cancer cells and transgenic mice, shedding light on its potential as an anti-cancer agent.
The study conducted by Kim et al. involved several key experiments:
1. Inhibition of Liver Cancer Cell Growth:
The researchers tested the impact of MSM on liver cancer cell lines, including HepG2, Huh7-Mock, and Huh7-H-rasG12V. They found that MSM significantly reduced the growth of these cells in a dose-dependent manner. This inhibition of cell growth was particularly notable when treated with 500 mmol/L of MSM.
2. Promotion of Apoptosis:
Apoptosis, a programmed cell death process, is often dysregulated in cancer cells. The researchers discovered that treatment with MSM led to a substantial increase in apoptosis in liver cancer cells. Specifically, cleaved caspase-8, cleaved caspase-3, and cleaved PARP (Poly ADP-ribose polymerase) levels were significantly elevated in cells treated with 500 mmol/L of MSM. This indicates that MSM can induce apoptosis in liver cancer cells, potentially inhibiting their growth.
3. Suppression of Tumour Development in Mice:
To assess the in vivo effects of MSM, the researchers administered MSM to H-ras12V transgenic mice for three months. These mice are prone to liver tumour development. The results were remarkable; the mice treated with MSM exhibited significantly reduced tumour size and fewer tumours compared to the control group. Moreover, cleaved PARP was significantly increased in non-tumour areas of the liver in mice treated with MSM, suggesting that MSM might not only suppress tumour growth but also contribute to the protection of non-tumour liver tissue.
4. Improvement in Liver Function:
Liver injury was significantly attenuated in mice treated with MSM. Blood plasma analysis showed reduced levels of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT), indicating improved liver function.
The study's findings strongly suggest that MSM has anti-cancer effects in liver cancer, primarily through the activation of apoptosis. This natural compound, commonly found in various foods and known to be safe even at higher concentrations, presents an exciting potential for liver cancer treatment.
Kim JH, Shin HJ, Ha HL, Park YH, Kwon TH, Jung MR, Moon HB, Cho ES, Son HY, Yu DY. Methylsulfonylmethane Suppresses Hepatic Tumor Development Through Activation of Apoptosis. World Journal of Hepatology. 2014 Feb 27;6(2):98-106. doi: 10.4254/wjh.v6.i2.98. PMID: 24575169; PMCID: PMC3934636.