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Dec 20, 2013 08:31 AM EST

Frankincense Effective in Killing Ovarian Cancer Cells, Study

Frankincense, along with gold and myrrh, is one of the most famous Christmas presents in history.
(Photo : Flickr) Frankincense, along with gold and myrrh, is one of the most famous Christmas presents in history.

Leicester University researchers have found a cure for ovarian cancer in an aromatic gum resin obtained from an African tree. Researchers say that AKBA (acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid), a chemical compound in the resin, has cancer-killing properties. It has the potential to destroy ovarian cancer cells.

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Frankincense (gum resin), one of the three gifts given to the newborn Jesus by the Wise Men, is the resin of the Boswellia sacra, a small tree found across Africa and Arabia. The resin is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is widely used in folk medicine to treat asthma, skin conditions and gastroenteritis among others.

Previous studies have shown the efficacy of AKBA as a potential medicine for treatment of many cancers( colon, breast and prostate). This is the first study to identify its ability to fight ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is potentially more dangerous as it is difficult to diagnose in the early stages. According to Cancer.gov, in the United States, there were estimated 22,240 new cases and 14,030 deaths due to ovarian cancer in 2013.   

Researchers said that AKBA has the capability to fight ovarian cancer cells in the last stage.

 "After a year of studying the AKBA compound with ovarian cancer cell lines in vitro, we have been able to show it is effective at killing the cancer cells. Frankincense is taken by many people with no known side-effects," Kamla Al-Salmani, PhD student from the University's Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine and lead researcher, said in a statement.

Al-Salmani said that medical professionals can take this finding to the next level, i.e., clinical trial, and develop into an alternative treatment for ovarian cancer.

 "What has been most surprising is that the cells we have tested which are resistant to chemotherapy have shown to be more sensitive to this compound, suggesting frankincense may indeed be able to help overcome drug resistance, and lead to an improved survival rate for patients with late-stage ovarian cancer," Dr Mark Evans, Kamla's PhD Supervisor and Lecturer in the University's Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine said.

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