In a study published in July 2021, researchers concluded that select kratom alkaloids could help fight cancer. In their testing, both mitragynine and speciociliatine increased the effectiveness of cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug.
Drugs that aid chemotherapy in this manner are typically called "chemosensitizers." That means they make cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy, resulting in more effective treatment.
To test the chemosensitizing effects of kratom alkaloids, the authors prepared an "in vitro" environment consisting of living cells, but not living animals. Specifically, they isolated cancer cells from Nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare tumour that grows in the head and neck. The tested alkaloids were prepared as extracts.
They found that, combined with the chemotherapy drug cisplatin, "both methanolic and alkaloid extracts showed mild to moderate cytotoxic effect" against the cancer cells. However, when acting alone or in combination with one another, the alkaloids had no effect.
The authors concluded that "both mitragynine and speciociliatine could be potential chemosensitizers for cisplatin." However, because they conducted the study with isolated cells (in vitro), the authors stressed the importance of further research. While their results are promising, studies with isolated cells can yield different results compared to studies conducted in real-world environments with living animals or humans (in vivo).