Red sage extract identified as potential preventive agent for gastric cancer

1 November 2022

Research led by Hong Kong Baptist University has identified cryptotanshinone, a compound extracted from the Chinese herbal medicine Salvia miltiorrhiza with the potential for the treatment and prevention of gastric cancer associated with bile reflux.

Bile, secreted by the liver, is stored in the gallbladder and is released to the small intestine to help digest fat. When the valve connecting the stomach and the small intestine is damaged or fails to work properly, bile can enter the stomach, causing gastritis. People with stomach surgery complications, peptic ulcers or gallbladder removal surgery have higher risks of bile reflux. However, the mechanism of how bile reflux induces gastric carcinogenesis remains unclear.

Professor Wei Jia, Associate Dean of Chinese Medicine at Hong Kong Baptist University, in collaboration with researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University Affiliated Sixth People’s Hospital, conducted a study on how bile reflux induces gastric carcinogenesis, and looked for new prevention and therapeutic approaches.

“We unveiled for the first time the underlying mechanism by which bile reflux promoted the development of gastric carcinogenesis,” Jia said. “It offers important clinical insights on the development of novel prevention and therapeutic approaches for the disease. Based on the newly discovered mechanism, we identified cryptotanshinone as a potential Chinese medicine-based pharmaceutical agent for the prevention and treatment of gastric carcinogenesis due to bile reflux.”

The phenomenon is explained by the fact that bile acids are weaker than strong gastric acid, and their influx into the stomach upsets the normal acid-base balance of the gastric juice.

After unveiling the mechanism of bile reflux-induced gastric cancer, the researchers turned their attention to corresponding preventive and therapeutic approaches. They focused on cryptotanshinone, a bioactive compound isolated from the roots of Salvia miltiorrhiza, also known as red sage, which facilitates blood circulation with an anti-inflammatory effect.

“Based on our research findings, it can be concluded that cryptotanshinone is a potential Chinese medicine-based pharmaceutical agent for the prevention and treatment of gastric carcinogenesis due to bile reflux. It provides an alternative strategy for the development of medication which targets the newly discovered mechanism of how bile reflux induces gastric carcinogenesis,” said Jia.

The research findings have been published in the international scientific journal Advanced Science.