Prognosis of pancreatic cancer is extremely poor, suggesting critical needs for additional drugs to improve disease outcome, according to the study’s abstract.
University of Colorado Cancer Center researchers led by Dr. Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Co-Program Leader of Cancer Prevention and Control at the CU Cancer Center, examined the effectiveness and associated activity of a novel agent bitter melon juice (BMJ) against pancreatic carcinoma cells both in culture and nude mice.
"Three years ago researchers showed the effect of bitter melon extract on breast cancer cells only in a Petri dish. This study goes much, much farther. "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," says Dr. Agarwal.
The study three years ago was led by Dr. Ratna B. Ray, PhD, professor n the Department of Pathology at Saint Louis University. Dr. Ray and colleagues had found the activity of bitter melon extract significantly decreased significantly decreased proliferation, that is, cell growth and division, and induced death in breast cancer cells.
According to Dr. Agarwal this study goes further than Dr. Ray’s study in respect that researchers used the juice and demonstrated that the juice “affects the glucose metabolism pathway to restrict energy and kill pancreatic cancer cells.” He further notes that people In Asian countries already consume the juice in quantity.
Dr. Agarwal’s interest came from connecting the dots of existing research in a original way. Diabetes tends to presage pancreatic cancer and bitter melon has been demonstrated to effect type 2 diabetes and has been used in native medicines of Asia and Africa. Following this line of thinking Dr. Agarwal and colleagues wondered what would happen if they closed out the middle man of diabetes and directly explored the link between bitter melon and pancreatic cancer.
Researchers examined the anti-cancer effect in human pancreatic carcinoma BxPC-3, MiaPaCa-2, AsPC-1 and Capan-2 cells by MTT, cell death ELISA and annexin/PI assays.
The results showed that bitter melon juice decreases cell activity in all four pancreatic carcinoma cell lines by inducing strong inducing strong apoptotic death.
The result according to Dr. Agarwal is "Alteration in metabolic events in pancreatic cancer cells and an activation of the AMP-activated protein kinase, an enzyme that indicates low energy levels in the cells."
Researchers also found bitter melon regulates secretion by pancreatic beta cells. After studies in cell cultures the researchers demonstrated I n mouse models of pancreatic cells that were fed bitter melon juice were 60% less likely to develop the disease in comparison to controls.
The researchers write “Overall, BMJ (bitter melon juice) exerts strong anti-cancer efficacy against human pancreatic carcinoma cells, both in vitro and in vivo, suggesting its clinical usefulness.
Dr. Agarwal commented "It's a very exciting finding.” "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."
The Agarwal Lab is now applying for grants that will allow them to move the study of bitter melon into further chemoprevention trials in mouse models of pancreatic cancer.
This study appears in the journal Carcinogenesis.
Dr. Rajesh Agarwal last year had showed that in both both cell lines and mouse models, grape seed extract (GSE) kills head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cells, while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
Information on bitter melon can be found online at the NYU Langone Medical Center online.