Academic Minute Podcast

Ramneet Kaur, Columbus State University – Natural Products and Triple Negative Breast Cancer Stem Cells

Work to cure breast cancer is an important field.

Ramneet Kaur, assistant professor of biology at Columbus State University, details new ideas in this fight.

I am a cell and molecular biologist with cancer biology as my research area. I have a Ph.D. in Biotechnology and a post-doc in cancer biology from Harvard Medical School, Boston, and Emory University, Atlanta. I teach Cell and Molecular biology, Microbiology, Anatomy & Physiology, Bioinformatics, and general biology courses to major and non-major students. My research focuses on checking the effects of natural products like ginger, garlic, turmeric, etc. on the growth of triple-negative breast cancer stem cells. My research is published and has received many research grants.

Natural Products and Triple Negative Breast Cancer Stem Cells

Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women worldwide. 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer,15 to 20 % of which are diagnosed with TNBC (triple-negative breast cancer). TNBC is a new subtype of breast cancer in which cancer cells lack three proteins estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and Her-2 which are known to fuel the breast cancer cells. It is a very aggressive form of breast cancer with a high chance of relapse. It is difficult to treat TNBC as targeted therapy is unavailable for TNBC.

Chemotherapy is often not the best option because it cannot distinguish between healthy fast dividing cells and cancer cells. Patients receiving chemotherapy get very sick and die of the side effects of chemotherapy rather than cancer itself. Docetaxel (a chemotherapy drug given to TNBC patients) kills most of the cancer cells, but some cells are resistant to docetaxel. These resistant cells survive, they express cancer stem cell markers on them and are responsible for the relapse of cancer.

My research involves studying if the chemicals in natural products like ginger, turmeric, herb (ashwagandha), grapefruit, lemon peel, etc. can kill docetaxel resistant TNBC stem cells as natural products do not have side effects and are well tolerated by human body. In the current study we are checking the potential of the natural products to kill the docetaxel resistant TNBC stem cells. This is a new direction in the field of cancer biology as natural products are not much explored to solve the problem of drug resistance and the enrichment of cancer stem cells in the field of oncology.


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