Researchers decipher the antitumor mechanism of an Amazonian plant

The Amazon rain forest continues to dwindle due to human activity, but that hasn’t stopped it from providing boons to those who truly need it. One of the plants that lives in its green depths has displayed the ability to kill cancerous liver cells, an article in Medical Xpress stated.

Vismia baccifera is found in the rain forest that cover part of Colombia. The plant contains natural compounds that cause oxidative stress in cells. The oxidation process damages the affected tissue, which eventually dies.

In a recent experiment, researchers from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) reported that a traditional infusion derived from V. baccifera specifically targets tumor cells while leaving healthy liver cells alone. The results suggest that the plant could be a potential natural therapy for liver cancer and other forms of cancer.

“Right now, there is huge interest in identifying compounds derived from plants that could be used as chemotherapeutic agents with the capacity to prevent tumours from growing, or to treat metastasis, for example,” remarked study author Jenifer Trepiana of the UPV/EHU.

Trepiana and her colleagues published their findings in the scientific journal Heliyon. (Related: South African herb lance-leaved waxberry found to offer antimicrobial and antitumor benefits.)

This Amazonian plant has been used to treat many illnesses

Medicinal plants have been getting a lot of attention in recent times. They have proven themselves to be treasure troves of natural chemicals that can prevent harmful oxidative stress, stop inflammation, and halt the growth and development of tumors.

V. baccifera is one of these plants. In Colombia, the locals use it to treat inflammation-related disorders, urinary tract problems, and skin diseases.

The UPV/EHU research team picked V. baccifera for their study for a different reason. Earlier studies have shown that the plant possessed very strong activity against liver cancer cells; it was also the most effective.

For their new experiment, the researchers used human hepatic tumor cells to create an in vitro model of liver cancer. They also set up a similar model using healthy human liver cells.

Both models were treated with a water-based extract of V. baccifera that had been prepared in the traditional way. After treatment, both groups were examined for the effects.

Vismia baccifera takes out liver cancer cells without harming healthy ones

The UPV/EHU experiment confirmed earlier findings about the anti-tumor activity of the V. baccifera extract. The plant extract increased the concentration of free radicals and hydrogen peroxide in the liver cancer cells. Oxidative stress levels went up, which led to the tumor cells dying left and right.

Hydrogen peroxide was particularly effective in taking out the cancer cells. It stopped the tumor cells from increasing in number, wrecked the cells’ genetic material, and triggered their self-destruct process.

Trepiana further reported that the V. baccifera extract not only took out tumor cells, it also left healthy cells alone. The ordinary human liver cells did not experience any of the destructive oxidative stresss that destroyed their cancerous equivalents.

Earlier animal studies showed similar effects for healthy liver cells of rats. But this was the first trail that used healthy human liver cells.

Conventional chemotherapy depends on killing cancerous cells slightly faster than it kills healthy cells. But if a treatment could take out cancer tumors without harming ordinary tissue, the therapy would be safer for the patient without compromising on its effectiveness.

Trepiana and her team are planning to conduct in vivo studies on rats and other animals. They hope to confirm the potential of Vismia baccifera as a natural cure for liver cancer.

To learn more about other plants with the same anti-cancer potential as V. baccifera, visit

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