Rauwolfia Vomitoria – Hope for Pancreatic and Ovarian Cancer


Mirko Beljanski, PhD (1923-1998), was a French molecular biologist who worked for over 40 years studying DNA replication and transcription. Born in the former Yugoslavia, he worked his way from a small village with no resources to become a researcher at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, one of the top research institutions in the world.

At the time of his untimely death in 1998, he left behind a legacy of fearless innovation as well as an impressive body of work including two books, 133 articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and numerous patents. One of his primary ambitions was to find natural chemical that would aide cancer patients.

He found that a selective extract from the bark of the roots of Rauwolfia vomitoria, an African tree, traditionally used as regulator of the digestive and the hormonal system, also helped slow cell replication in Pancreatic and Ovarian cancer patients. A 2013 study [1] showed, “Rau decreased cell growth in all 3 tested ovarian cancer cell lines dose dependently and completely inhibited formation of colonies in soft agar. Apoptosis was induced in a time- and dose-dependent manner and was the predominant form of Rau-induced cell death.”

Another, 2018 study on Pancreatic Cancer revealed, “The poor treatment outcomes of pancreatic cancer are linked to an enrichment of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in these tumors, which are resistant to chemotherapy and promote metastasis and tumor recurrence. The present study investigated an extract from the root of the medicinal plant Rauwolfia vomitoria (Rau) for its activity against pancreatic CSCs. In vitro tumor spheroid formation and CSC markers were tested, and in vivo tumorigenicity was evaluated in nude mice. Rau inhibited the overall proliferation of human pancreatic cancer cell lines with a 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) ranging between 125 and 325 µg/ml, and showed limited cytotoxicity towards normal epithelial cells. The pancreatic CSC population, identified using cell surface markers or a tumor spheroid formation assay, was significantly reduced, with an IC50 value of ~100 µg/ml treatment for 48 h and ~27 µg/ml for long-term tumor spheroid formation. The levels of CSC-related gene Nanog and nuclear β-catenin were decreased, suggesting suppression of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. In vivo, 20 mg/kg of Rau administered five times per week by oral gavage significantly reduced the tumorigenicity of PANC-1 cells in immunocompromised mice. Taken together, these data showed that Rau preferentially inhibited pancreatic cancer stem cells. Further investigation is warranted to examine the potential of Rau as a novel treatment for pancreatic cancer.” [2]

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[1]  Antitumor Activities of Rauwolfia vomitoria Extract and Potentiation of Carboplatin Effects Against Ovarian Cancer, . 2013 Dec; 75: 8–14.  doi: 10.1016/j.curtheres.2013.04.001

[2] Inhibition of pancreatic cancer stem cells by Rauwolfia vomitoria extract. Dong R1, Chen P1, Chen Q1 2018 Dec;40(6):3144-3154. doi: 10.3892/or.2018.6713. Epub 2018 Sep 18.