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Spices might treat difficult cancers

Ginger can kill ovarian cancer cells while a compound in pepper hot can shrink pancreatic tumours.

Spices might treat difficult cancers

Ginger can kill ovarian cancer cells while a compound in pepper hot can shrink pancreatic tumours. Ovarian cancer kills 16,000 out of the 22,000 U.S. women who are diagnosed with it every year. Researchers from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center conducted a study on ginger, using cells in a lab dish. They tested ginger powder dissolved in solution by putting it on ovarian cancer cell cultures. It killed the ovarian cancer cells in two different ways - through a self-destruction process called apoptosis and through autophagy in which cells digest themselves. Most ovarian cancer patients develop recurrent disease that eventually becomes resistant to standard chemotherapy, which is associated with resistance to apoptosis. If ginger can cause autophagic cell death in addition to apoptosis, it may circumvent resistance to conventional chemotherapy. Ginger has been shown to help control inflammation, which can contribute to the development of ovarian cancer cells. It was found that in multiple ovarian cancer cell lines, ginger induced cell death at a similar or better rate than the platinum-based chemotherapy drugs typically used to treat ovarian cancer. In another study researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that capsaicin, which makes chilly peppers hot, fed to mice caused apoptosis death in pancreatic cancer cells. Capsaicin triggered the cancerous cells to die off and significantly reduced the size of the tumors. The spicy compound killed pancreatic tumour cells but did not affect normal, healthy pancreas cells. Similar results were reported last year with pancreatic cells in lab dishes. Pancreatic cancer is highly deadly, killing 31,000 of the 32,000 it will be diagnosed in this year. Other researchers in Los Angeles reported that capsaicin also killed prostate tumour cells. Other studies have shown that turmeric, a yellow spice used widely in Indian cooking, may help stop the spread of lung cancer and breast cancer in mice. Experts point out that many compounds shown to stop cancer in mice may not be nearly as effective in human cancer patients.
American Association for Cancer Research,
April 2006
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