Medicine & Pharmaceuticals

Potential Treatment for Cervical Cancer Identified in Fig Fruit Latex

“We report, for the first time, some of the chemical constituents of crude fig latex, aqueous supernatant and polymeric gum of fig latex using NMR/MS”

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for the development of most cervical cancers. Cervical cancer is the fourth most commonly occurring cancer in women, with over 500,000 new cases being reported in 2018.

HPV interferes with the molecular pathways controlling cell proliferation and differentiation, resulting in uncontrolled cell growth. The presence of even small amounts of HPV DNA can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.  Although not all HPV infections lead to the development of cervical cancer, there is much interest in finding an effective treatment against HPV infection to eradicate the potential risk. It is hoped that such a treatment would also provide a safer alternative for the removal of cancerous cervical cells.

Currently the spread of cervical cancer is prevented by the ablation of abnormal cells using surgical excision, chemotherapy, or cryotherapy. Although effective, such procedures are associated with the risk of significant tissue damage.

Latex obtained from the unripe fruit of the common fig tree (Ficus carica) has been shown to be effective in the treatment of human skin lesions caused by HPV, such as warts. This has made it a potential candidate for the treatment of cervical cells infected with HPV infections without the risk of tissue injury. Elucidation of the biologically active components of the Ficus carica latex and the mechanism of action will facilitate drug development.

To this end, researchers have recently analysed the chemical composition of fig latex to gain insight into the possible mechanisms of action by which it deactivates HPV. This was performed through a series of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and mass spectroscopy (MS) analyses using a Bruker Avance III 600 MHz NMR spectrometer and a Bruker time-of-flight MicrOTOF Focus mass spectrometer, respectively.

These analyses of the crude fig latex, aqueous supernatant and polymeric gum of fig latex identified for the first time a chemical component that is likely to possess the anti-HPV activity. Based on the data obtained, the authors predict that the active agent is likely to be lipophilic and possibly a chlorogenic/ferrulic/caffeic acid plant sterol derivative.

The biological activities of fig latex extract were also investigated by adding it to the HPV-infected cervical cancer cell lines CaSki and HeLa, as well as to control human immortalised keratinocyte (HaCaT) cells.

A range of anti-cancer activities were observed in the HPV-infected cells. These included inhibition of uncontrolled cell proliferation and transformation, induction of apoptosis, prevention of colony formation and downregulation of the expression of HPV oncoproteins. The fig latex extract was also found to prevent the deregulation of HPV oncoproteins and an HPV diagnostic marker protein and initiate the reactivation of tumour suppressor proteins. No toxic effects were observed on the control human immortalised keratinocyte (HaCaT) cells.

These latest findings support ongoing research into Ficus carica latex as a potential therapeutic agent for the treatment, cure and prevention of HPV-related cervical cancer.

Contact Bruker for more information.


Ghanbari A, et al. Biological activities of Ficus carica latex for potential therapeutics in Human Papillomavirus (HPV) related cervical cancers. Scientific Reports 2019; 9:Article number 1013. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-37665-6#Sec2