Ovarian cancer is one of the most high-risk diseases for women, with the lowest survival rate compared to other cancers such as lung cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
According to the Ministry of Health data, in 2023, 41 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer every day, and 27 of them died.
Based on this data, UGM students have developed an alternative therapy to address ovarian cancer by inducing the apoptosis mechanism to modulate the BAX and p53 genes. They utilized anticancer compounds found in the extract of the pacing rhizome (Costus speciosus sp).
The idea was initiated by Alifia Brilliani Hidayah, a student from the Faculty of Pharmacy, and developed with four of her colleagues: Nuqya Ashfannada, Aisyah Nur Khasanah, Siti Nur Annisa, and Ghea Rachella Tiffany, under the guidance of Dr. Retno Murwanti.
Alifia Hidayah, leading the research, mentioned that the pacing rhizome is one of many wild plants containing diosgenin compounds acting as anticancer agents triggering cancer cell apoptosis.
“This plant grows wild and is often found in rice fields, rivers, and swamps. However, not many people know that this wild plant can be developed as an alternative treatment for ovarian cancer,” Hidayah said.
Additionally, using plant extracts as cancer treatment is considered safer and more easily tolerated by the body.
Hidayah noted that the potential treatment of ovarian cancer with pacing rhizome extract is a strategic step because 70% of ovarian cancer patients who receive synthetic drug chemotherapy will relapse within 6-12 months, even after completing chemotherapy.
“There are many cases of resistance to cancer chemotherapy drugs, and the patient’s survival does not improve after receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy treatment,” Aisyah Khasanah added.
She explained that treating ovarian cancer with pacing rhizome extract, targeting the apoptosis mechanism mediated by the expression of the BAX gene and p53 protein, is a form of precision medicine in ovarian cancer treatment.
Apoptosis is a natural cell death process that occurs in the body. Cancer cell apoptosis is expected to happen to minimize the abnormalities of normal cells in cancer treatment.
In this study, apoptosis induction modulated by the BAX and p53 genes was performed.
In vitro testing was carried out on SKOV3 cells (human ovarian cancer cells) in experimental animals with pacing rhizome extract treatment at specified concentrations to determine the effectiveness of pacing rhizomes.
The research successfully extracted pacing rhizome extract with an IC50 value of 69.143 μg/mL, proving that the pacing rhizome extract falls into the category of active anticancer compounds.
“We also conducted in silico research with molecular docking, which showed an interaction between diosgenin and the BAX and p53 receptors. The docking results indicate that diosgenin has the potential to act as an agonist on the BAX and p53 receptors in ovarian cancer treatment,” added Ghea Tiffany.
This research is part of the 2023 Student Creativity Program in Exact Sciences Research, funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology. It has successfully qualified for the 36th National Scientific Week (PIMNAS) competition in 2023 at Padjajaran University.
Author: Gusti Grehenson