Melatonin slows the growth of malignant cells and allows them die faster - A scientific study by the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of León (Ibiomed)

Ruben Arranz / DICYT
Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer and the mortality rate within 5 years is particularly high. This disease is like a silent killer because the symptoms are often very weak, although the cancer cells are very aggressive. A research team from the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of León (Ibiomed) has revealed how melatonin – a natural hormone – slows the growth of malignant cells and promotes their death, without harming the healthy cells.

The results will be shortly published in the Journal of Pineal Research and indicate that scientific studies suggest that the melatonin receptors MT-1 present at the cell membrane are responsible for this phenomenon. When the melatonin antagonist Luzindole is applied and thus the effect of melatonin is inhibited, tumour cells grow as fast as usual.

If the MT-1 is inactive, the melatonin remains in the bloodstream and the cell cycle almost succumbs. This is what the researchers and his multidisciplinary team consisting of experts from the fields of biology, medicine and biotechnology could prove during their study.

During in vitro experiments with tumour cells it could be observed that melatonin inhibits the growth of malignant cells via specific enzymes (kinases) and causes cell death (apoptosis).

A tumour with a high mortality

After pancreatic cancer, liver cancer is the cancer with the second largest mortality rate. Since there are often no symptoms, liver cancer is detected late and only 20 to 25 percent of patients survive the first 5 years after its beginning.

Depending on the general health of the patient, symptoms of liver cancer are weight loss, abdominal pain and a general state of fatigue. These symptoms can also be very weak, so that the patients do not search the advice of a doctor and the disease may progress untreated.

In the early stages, the tumour can be treated with injections of ethanol or in some cases it can be removed surgically.

The problem is that this type of therapy is no longer possible in an advanced stage. In this case, only a transplant is possible. But the waiting lists for donor organs are long and the transplanted organ can be repelled.

An effective therapy

Ongoing researches are trying to find ways to make the treatment more effective. Melatonin is one of the possible solutions, since the malignant cells are effectively combated without harming the healthy liver cells.

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