Common Indian fruit shows promise as a cancer fighter


Common Indian fruit shows promise as a cancer fighter


Recent research has revealed that the Asian fruit commonly eaten in India known as bitter melon shows promise in slowing the progression of cancer by preventing it from growing and spreading.

Although the research has not yet been conducted in humans, results from experiments on mice showed that bitter melon may be a potential alternative therapy to complement traditional cancer treatment.

“All animal model studies that we’ve conducted are giving us similar results, an approximately 50% reduction in tumour growth,” said Ratna Ray, Ph.D., professor of pathology at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. “Our next step is to conduct a pilot study in cancer patients to see if bitter melon has clinical benefits and is a promising additional therapy to current treatments.”

“Natural products play a critical role in the discovery and development of numerous drugs for the treatment of various types of deadly diseases, including cancer. Therefore, the use of natural products as preventive medicine is becoming increasingly important,” Ray said.

Ray’s recent research builds upon years of work that shows bitter melon inhibits the replication of breast, prostate, and head and neck cancer cells in a petri dish and in a mouse model. Her 2018 paper discovered that bitter melon reduced the incidence of tongue cancer in a mouse model.

In the most recent paper, the team examined the mechanism used by bitter melon to fight cancers of the mouth and tongue. Put simply, bitter melon adjusts certain molecules that are involved in the metabolic pathways that transport glucose and fat around the body, which are key targets to suppress the growth of oral cancer. This eventually causes the cancer cells to die.

Although it is too soon to say whether bitter melon works to stop cancer in people, Ray still eats bitter melon three to four times a week. It is available as a green vegetable in local Asian markets, and can be prepared in an assortment of ways. It can be steamed, mashed, stir fried, or even blended into a smoothie.

“Some people take an apple a day, and I’d eat a bitter melon a day,” Ray said. “I enjoy the taste.”


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