Indian herbal supplement may harbour pancreatic cancer cure
April 18: Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute have demonstrated that a commonly used Indian herbal supplement, triphala, has the potential to slow down the growth of human pancreatic tumours grafted onto mice.
The findings offer hope that one day a treatment for the disease may be developed, though the experts have warned that the study is still at a very early stage. Triphala is a herbal preparation used in the traditional Indian medicine system Ayurveda. It contains the dried and powdered fruits of three plants, and it is said to ease intestinal-related disorders and promote good digestion. The current research confirms the findings of previous studies that have shown triphala to have an anti-cancer activity in cell cultures. It also shows that the herb does not damage normal pancreatic cells. During the study, mice grafted with human pancreatic tumours were administered a triphala solution five days per week. When the researchers carried out their comparison with those in control group of mice after four weeks, they found that tumours in triphala-treated mice were half the size of those in the untreated mice. They also noted that the tumour cells in treated mice had higher levels of proteins associated with apoptosis, the process by the which the body normally disposes of damaged, old of unneeded cells. "We discovered that triphala fed orally to mice with human pancreatic tumors was an extremely effective inhibitor of the cancer process, inducing apoptosis in cancer cells," said Sanjay K. Srivastava, Ph.D., lead investigator and assistant professor, department of pharmacology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine."Triphala triggered the cancerous cells to die off and significantly reduced the size of the tumors without causing any toxic side effects," he added. The study also revealed that though triphala had activated tumour-suppressor genes, but did not negatively affect normal pancreatic cells. "Our results demonstrate that triphala has strong anti-cancer properties given its ability to induce apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells without damaging normal pancreatic cells," said Dr. Srivastava. "With follow-up studies, we hope to demonstrate its potential use as a novel agent for the prevention and treatment of pancreatic cancer," he added. The study is being presented in a late-breaking session at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, being held at the Los Angeles Convention Center.