Destroys Killer Cells
The humble Indian
“karela” has now been found to be a giant slayer of breast
Scientists from Saint Louis University have for the first time
found that an extract from bitter melon or bitter gourd (karela)
not only killed human breast cancer cells but also prevented
them from multiplying.
Karela has been known to be rich in all essential minerals and
vitamins, including vitamin A, B1, B2 and C, besides iron.
Till now, the bitter vegetable was known to be highly
beneficial against diabetes, high blood pressure, heartburn,
cholesterol levels and ulcers.
Ratna Ray, professor in
the department of pathology and lead researcher, said she was
surprised that the extract from karela she stir fries inhibits
the growth of breast cancer cells. “Our result is
encouraging. We have shown that bitter melon extract
significantly induced death in breast cancer cells and
decreased their growth and spread,” Ray, who has published
her finding in the latest issue of the medical journal
“Cancer Research”, said.
Ray conducted her
research using human breast cancer cells in vitro or in a
controlled lab setting. The next step, she says, is to test
the extract in an animal model to see if it plays a role in
delaying the growth or killing of breast cancer cells. If
those results are positive, human trials could follow.
The finding comes as a
special interest for Indian women. While breast cancer cases
have started to surge in the country, the karela is a commonly
available vegetable that does not cost much. An analysis of
cancer cases in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore between
1982 and 2005 by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)
found that the incidence of breast cancer had doubled.
Rajesh Agarwal, professor
in the department of pharmaceutical sciences at the University
of Colorado, Denver School of Pharmacy, said this study is
only a step towards establishing the cancer preventive
efficacy of bitter melon against breast cancer. Additional
studies are needed to further understand the molecular targets
of bitter melon extract in cancer cells, as well as for
establishing its in vivo efficacy.