New research suggests that a compound derived From Onions Can inhibit ovarian cancer tumor growth

By Rachel Burd

            Scientists from Kumamoto University in Japan have been researching the effects of onionin A (ONA), a natural compound isolated from onions, on a preclinical model of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) as well as other preclinical models.  EOC is the most common type of ovarian cancer and has an 80% relapse rate.  Therefore, a more effective treatment is necessary.  Fortunately, the group at Kumamoto University has recently discovered that ONA possesses anti-ovarian cancer properties.

            In vitro experiments showed that the growth of EOCs is inhibited in the presence of ONA.  It is thought that ONA impacts a transcription factor called STAT3, which is known for being involved in the proliferation of cancer cells.  Moreover, the group’s preclinical sarcoma (cancer of non-epithelial tissue) model showed that ONA inhibits the tumor-promoting functions of myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSC).  ONA initiates an immune response against cancer by destroying the immunosuppressive functions of MDSCs. 

The group’s ovarian cancer murine model showed a correlation between orally administered ONA and inhibited ovarian cancer tumor development as well as increased longevity among the mice.  This was attributed to ONA’s suppression of M2 polarized macrophages, cells that are associated with tissue repair and can promote tumor growth.  Additionally, ONA was found to generally increase the efficacy of anti-cancer drugs with virtually no cytoxic effects to healthy cells, and no side effects in animals have been detected.

            The hope is that this research can result in the production and administration of an oral ONA supplement.  This breakthrough in oncological research may be capable of greatly improving the life span, quality of life, and overall prognosis for EOC patients.


Kumamoto University. (2016, October 20). Anti-cancer effects found in natural compound derived from onions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2016 from