CHENNAI: The long quest for an affordable anti-cancer drug has led scientists to an unlikely place — Indian kitchens. It has been found that turmeric, garlic, ginger, saffron and capsicum, used to spice up Indian curries, have excellent cancer-fighting qualities.
While research on curcumin (a derivative of turmeric) is in the human trial stage, animal trials on others have shown promising results, scientists said at the Indian Science Congress. The search for alternative cancer drugs began years ago after doctors found the existing drugs unaffordable.
“They were bogged down by the side-effects of cancer therapy. They went in for natural remedies,” said Shrikanth Anant, professor of cancer research, University of Kansas, who has been researching on curcumin. In most US pharmacies, curcumin is available in tablet form. Studies published in medical journals estimate that at least 62% of cancer patients in the US resort to self-medication with natural compounds, he said.He said doctors wanted to understand whether these natural products worked well in isolation or when combined with existing therapy. “Cancer is a complex disease. No therapy is a silver bullet. It has to be a combination. So, we’re looking at options that can make treatment more effective,” Anant said. The Kansas University, he added, had seen success in the first phase of human trial, where they gave volunteers up to 12 grams of curcumin mixed with orange juice, taken orally for three months. The reports are now being submitted to medical journals for publication, he said.
The promises some of the natural and plant derivatives showed in animal trials have encouraged scientists to go in search of many more spices like the Jamaican pepper and potions like BIRM (biological immune response modulator), an Amazonian plant extract that has been found to inhibit prostate cancer growth.