It?s hot, it?s good: Your kitchen has cancer cures | india | Hindustan Times
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It?s hot, it?s good: Your kitchen has cancer cures

Two popular Indian spices -- red chilli pepper and ginger -- are tickling palate of researchers, writes S Rajagopalan.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2006 09:59 IST

Red chilli pepper, ginger and turmeric. The humble spices in the kitchen cupboard could turn out to be the cure for cancer.

After the buzz around the anti-cancer properties of turmeric, two other popular Indian spices -- red chilli pepper and ginger -- are tickling the palate of researchers. A paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in Washington says red chilli pepper can prevent or slow the growth of cancerous tumour in the pancreas. Another paper says ginger can kill cancerous cells in ovaries.

Both studies may be promising but they have a long way to go in terms of human trials. The findings on chilli pepper are based on studies in mice which were grafted with human pancreatic tumours while the research on ginger has been conducted in a lab dish.

An Indian had to be at the centre of the chilli stuff. So it was. The lead investigator of the study was Dr Sanjay Srivastava of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The study found that capsaicin, the compound that makes chilli pepper hot, caused cancerous cells in pancreas to die through a process called apoptosis  -- the body's normal way of disposing of damaged or unwanted cells. However, it did not affect healthy cells.

"Capsaicin triggered cancerous cells to die and significantly reduced the size of tumours," said Srivastava.

The study on ginger was conducted by Dr Rebecca Liu of the University of Michigan. In what was the first successful step to test the idea, dissolved ginger powder was added to ovarian cancer cells in a lab dish. According to researchers, the rate at which ginger killed cancer cells was similar to or better than that of platinum-based chemotherapy drugs.