Dr. Rasha Alhaj claims to have identified a specific substance within natural honey which allowed her to treat several cancers. Following her PhD. in bioengineering, Alhaj applied for and received a patent from Imperial College London, one of the most prestigious medical institutions to date.
Initial research focused on breast cancers and their interaction with estrogen. In fact, one of the approaches used to treat the disease is hormone therapy, generally after surgery. Receptors found on the surface of these mutated cells attach to the estrogen (in ER-positive cancers) and/or progesterone (for PR-positive cancers), spurring their growth.
According to the patent, “cell growth in cultured human cancer cell lines, in particular breast cancer cell lines (specifically the cell lines MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7) is significantly inhibited by contacting the cells with honey”.
MDA-MB231 refers to triple negative breast cancer, a type of malignancy that tests negative for estrogen, progesterone or human epidermal growth factor (HER2), and accounts for about 10 to 20 percent of all breast cancer cases. They have limited treatment options and present a poor prognosis. MCF-7 is a type of tumor that displays those receptors and can be treated with hormone therapy, as opposed to chemotherapy.
Furthermore, Dr. Alhaj notes that “We have found that the addition of honey to the culture medium of human breast cancer cells grown in culture inhibits cell growth by between about 50% and 80% compared to controls. We have found that contacting cells with honey at a concentration of between 8 and 200 times dilution, preferably between 8 and 40 times dilution, in the culture medium results in inhibition of cell growth”.
While the papers note that Sudanese honey would be ideal, any other form of natural honey could be used.
The trend of investigating natural and organic compounds which might show cytotoxic properties continue and it can only lead to improved patient care and safer treatments overall.