Groundbreaking cancer research proves more promising than chemotherapy: the treatment of liver cancer through the golden spice of saffron has proven effective through the work of researchers and students at the United Arab Emirates University. Image Credit: Supplied

DUBAI: Saffron is effective in treating liver cancer, researchers from UAE University have established.

The conclusion is the result of a research project undertaken by Amerah Al Mansouri, a 25-year-old Emirati, who has just graduated with a Master’s degree in molecular biology and biotechnology from the university.

Titled “in vivo assessment of safranal’s novel therapeutic effects on chemically induced hepatic neoplasia”, the study induced cancer in rats which were then administered a safranal substance or a bioactive molecule of saffron. Tests on the liver and blood revealed highly effective results.

“When you work with animals, it’s more reliable than cells,” said Amerah, adding, “Dr Amr Amin, professor of cellular and molecular biology at the university, works with liver cancer and saffron so I continued his project.”

Amerah said although she started her project two years ago, the construction of the animal house delayed matters. “But everyone was supportive and I was also trained to deal with the animals.”

Giving more details, she said she used a chemical — DEN — which causes cancer particularly in the liver. The rats were injected with the substance once a week for 15 weeks, following which the drug were administered for three straight weeks.

“Safranal had reduced the liver damage markers or enzymes in the blood. We did protein tests on the liver itself. The drug worked perfectly on two pathways. We still need to do more tests as cancer has 11 hallmarks.”

Amerah hoped that the research would pave the way for the possible use of saffron in the treatment of human cancers, as it is a natural source with no side effects compared to chemotherapy.

“I think it can be used on humans soon as liver cancer is the fourth largest cause of death related to cancer in the UAE,” said Amerah, who hopes to continue her research at Khalifa Hospital.