Chemotherapy is still today one of the main (and often the only one) treatment options for cancer patients. Several chemotherapy agents have been developed over the course of the last decades, but due to their cytotoxic action, most of them still force patients to endure significant adverse reactions such as incoercible vomit, myelosuppression, alopecia and mucositis1.


Doxorubicin is an anthracycline antitumor antibiotic used as a chemotherapy drug for treating several types of malignancies, including leukemia, solid tumors and soft tissue sarcomas. Doxorubicin if frequently used as a component in many chemotherapy regimens. One of the most known and dangerous side effects of doxorubicin is a life-threatening cardiotoxicity that may lead to congestive heart failure. Recently black cumin oil (Nigella sativa) has been found to be able to protect against doxorubicin cardiotoxicity without compromising its cytotoxic action2.


Black cumin seed oil has been suggested as an adjuvant therapy in cancer treatment due to the properties of its bioactive antioxidant component: the thymoquinone (TQ). Doxorubicin cardiotoxicity is caused by increased oxidative stress that induces toxic damage to the cardiac cells. TQ does not diminish doxorubicin’s effectiveness as it does not alter plasma levels of the drug, but it does prevent its cardiotoxicity by reducing the production of oxygen-free radicals (ROS) that are deemed responsible of the doxorubicin-induced cardiomyopathy3. Other studies even found how TQ could even improve the anti-tumor properties of doxorubicin in some specific cancer cell lines4.


1. Corrie PG, Pippa G. (2008). "Cytotoxic chemotherapy: clinical aspects". Medicine 36 (1): 24–28. doi:10.1016/j.mpmed.2007.10.012

2. Ahmad A, Husain A, Mujeeb M, et al. A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. 2013;3(5):337-352. doi:10.1016/S2221-1691(13)60075-1.

3. al-Shabanah, O. A.; Badary, O. A.; Nagi, M. N.; al-Gharably, N. M.; al-Rikabi, A. C.; al-Bekairi, A. M. (1998-06-01). "Thymoquinone protects against doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity without compromising its antitumor activity". Journal of experimental & clinical cancer research: CR 17 (2): 193–198. ISSN 0392-9078. PMID 9700580.

4. Effenberger-Neidnicht, Katharina; Schobert, Rainer (2010-06-26). "Combinatorial effects of thymoquinone on the anti-cancer activity of doxorubicin". Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology 67 (4): 867–874. doi:10.1007/s00280-010-1386-x. ISSN 0344-5704.


Dr. Claudio Butticè, PharmD.

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