Cancer is considered the second major cause of human death worldwide. Sometimes it is also ranked as a leading cause of death all around the globe. This is due to a large number of mortalities each year because of cancer. According to International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in 2020, almost 19.9 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed. Among these almost 10.9 million people died in 2020 due to cancer. Such cancer burden is increasing worldwide wide due to various factors; amid which aging and population growth are on the top. Female breast cancer is now the most common type of cancer worldwide. Lung cancer is the second major type of cancer followed by various other kinds like Melanoma (skin cancer), stomach, colorectal, prostate, etc. To cope with this increasing cancer burden over the globe, massive research and studies are being conducted to develop novel therapeutics to cure this disease. One of the novel treatment methods is using steroid alkaloids like Conessine obtained from plants.
In this article, we are going to highlight one of the common types of cancer that are rapidly increasing. If it does not get proper treatment on time it can be fatal. This article also highlights its possible treatment methods with products obtained through natural resources (plants, animals) that are found to be very efficacious.
Melanoma (Skin Cancer):
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in melanocytes responsible for producing melanin. This is the deadliest type of skin cancer that can even lead to death. It can occur on any part of your skin and in the rare case it can develop inside your throat or nose or in any other part inside your body.
Causes of Melanoma
The exact cause of melanoma is not clear. But is identified that melanoma develops when there is something wrong in cells producing melanin. This change can damage the DNA of melanin-producing skin cells leading to the development of melanoma. This adverse change is attributed to various factors like a mutation in genes, and environmental factors like UV radiation.
Exposure to UV (ultraviolet) rays can significantly damage a cell’s DNA leading to uncontrolled development of mutated cells. It can also develop from tanning lamps that appeared on your skin.
Worldwide Statistics of Melanoma
Melanoma cases have increased 50% from the last decade and have continued to increase to an extent that doctors have considered it a global epidemic. According to a 2018 report, 287,723 cases of melanoma were diagnosed of which 60,712 people died. Moreover according to recent reports from WHO (World Health Organization) number of mortalities from melanoma will rise to 74% in 2040. Another report predicts that by 2025 the number of melanoma cases will rise to 18% (340,271 cases worldwide) and the mortality rate will rise to 20% (i.e. 72,886. Deaths). In this way, almost half a million people will be diagnosed with melanoma which is alarming.
Symptoms of Melanoma
As discussed above melanoma can develop on any part of your skin. One of the very first symptoms of this disease is the change in existing mole or development of darkening skin patches over the skin. Such patches can vary in color and texture.
We know melanoma can occur anywhere on the body. It can even occur in areas that do not come in contact with UV radiation frequently. These areas include palms, toes, genitals, etc. people with dark skin are at more risk of developing this disease as they cannot differentiate between normal and mutated skin. Other risk factors include fair skin, sunburn, living in an equatorial region, exposure to UV rays, or having a family history of this disease. Another most important factor delaying treatment. A delay in melanoma treatment for just one month can increase the death rate up to 5%.
Prevention of Melanoma
Before coming in contact with any type of disease it is very important to take proper precautionary measures to avoid developing such diseases. In the case of Melanoma, a person must avoid coming in contact with UV radiation, avoid the sun during the middle of the day, and wear protective clothing, and using sun protection creams. The most important thing a person must notice any change in its skin and consult the doctor immediately.
Novel Treatment Methods
To cope with this increased risk of melanoma scientists have been working extensively to develop novel treatment methods that can effectively treat melanoma without surgery or incisions. For this purpose steroids, alkaloids are widely considered.
What are Steroid Alkaloids?
Molecules containing steroidal structure play a very crucial role in the pharmaceutical industry. It is because they are secondary metabolites and come from plants and animals. Despite highly conserved steroidal structure and hormonal action, these molecules possess neuroprotective, antioxidant, and anti-hypercholesterolemic properties. Such chemicals come from plants and other natural resources. Therefore a variety of natural products (flora and fauna) have been used for ages to cure various diseases. Due to their exceptional properties and treatment abilities, such products are now been implemented in modern laboratories to develop novel therapeutics to cure cancer.
For example, almost 60% of the drugs for cancer treatment comes from such sources. This underlines the importance of these chemicals. Steroidal alkaloids is the name given to such substances. Research conducted on such substances highlighted the importance of their anticancer bioactivity and mechanism, both in vivo and in vitro treatment. Some examples of these plant derivatives are dendrogenin, solanidine, solasodine, tomatidine, cyclopamine, etc.
Use of Conessine in Melanoma Treatment
Another major steroidal alkaloid, which is vastly being used to cure in research to cure cancer. It is more specifically tested to cure skin cancer like Melanoma. This steroid alkaloid is Conessine. Its specifications and mode of bioactivity are as follows.
Conessine – A Steroidal Alkaloid
Conessine just like other alkaloids is a secondary metabolite that comes from the plant. It is extracted and isolated from Holarrhena floribunda, Holarrhena antidysenterica, and Funtumia elastica from the family Apocynaceae.
Conessine is a con-5-enine ring substituted by an N, N-dimethyl amino group at the third position. It a large compound with formula C24H40N2and structural formula as follow:
This compound is very effective as an antimalarial, antibacterial agent and as a plant metabolite. Now research has identified its role in cell death and cancer (Melanoma) treatments. Recent research has shown that conessine has the potential to act as a receptor antagonist of histamine H3. It interacts with the h3 receptor and also can develop new histamine receptors that can further release neurotransmitters to carry out other functions. It also plays the role to induce autophagy of cells used to cure cancer (like melanoma) and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Inhibition of tumor growth has been an endless struggle for the treatment of cancer. Reduction of cell growth and induction of cell death are two major means that can stop the growth of cancer cells (tumors).
Induction of Apoptosis by Conessine
Conessine has been found to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death). According to new therapeutics, induction of programmed cell death is one of the most effective ways to cure cancer.
Apoptosis is a natural mechanism that removes unwanted cells from the body by inducing a cell suicidal program. During this apoptotic process, various morphological changes occur in a cell-like; cell blebbing (bulging of the cell membrane), shrinkage of the cell, fragmentation of cell, chromatin condensation, and degradation of DNA that is engulfed by cell rapidly by neighboring cells. In this way, the cell eliminates unwanted material from the cell and eventually from the body. Conessine take the advantage of this natural intrinsic process and manipulates the apoptotic mechanism to obtain the successful elimination of cancer cells. It interferes with the natural process using its natural properties to induce the death of cancerous cells. Melanoma treatments try to implement this mechanism to stop cell growth eventually leading to cell death.
Although it seems very effective, the actual mechanism of inhibiting tumor growth and induction of apoptosis by conessine is not known. Extensive research and studies are conducted to determine which pathway conessine follows to reduce the growth of cancer cells like melanoma.
Moreover, many factors can interfere with its mechanism and alter the overall result of conessine. For example, if the apoptotic process alters or damages by any means. It will create a pathological condition that will induce developmental defects like neurodegeneration, autoimmune diseases, and dysfunction or cancerous neoplasia. Another factor is the stage of cancer. The researchers are trying to figure out whether this therapeutic mechanism works at later stages of cancer or not.
Conclusion – Final words
With the increasing number of melanoma all around the world, it is very necessary to take preventative measures. Also, there is a need to determine and fill the possible gaps in the research area. So scientists can figure out the best possible use of conessine in melanoma treatment. With the research and development, we hope to get better results and an effective cancer treatment program to fight this deadliest disease.
Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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