The humble karela, it
has emerged, is a giant slayer of pancreatic cancer cells. A
University of Colorado cancer study
published in the journal ‘Carcinogenesis’ shows that bitter
gourd juice restricts the ability of pancreatic cancer cells to
metabolize glucose, thus cutting the cells’ energy source and
eventually killing them.
The reason this works is because cancer cells rely mostly on
glucose for energy, having problems producing alternate forms of
energy themselves. Researchers saw a 60% reduction in the
ability of human pancreatic cancer cells to grow in mice that
had been transferred with the cancerous cells.
They also saw the same results on pancreatic cancer cells grown
in petri dishes in laboratory conditions.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the worst types with a high
mortality rate — the five-year survival rate is as low as 6%
after diagnosis. Apple CEO Steve Jobs died from pancreatic
cancer in 2011.
The disease affects one in 100,000 people. “Many researchers
are engineering new drugs to target cancer cells’ ability to
supply themselves with energy, and here we have a
naturally-occurring compound that may do just that,” says
Rajesh Agarwal from the University of Colorado Cancer Center and
professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical
Sciences. “Three years ago researchers showed the effect of
bitter gourd extract on breast cancer cells only in a petri
dish. We used the juice — people especially in Asian countries
are already consuming it in quantity. We show that it affects
the glucose metabolism pathway to restrict energy and kill
pancreatic cancer cells.”