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St. Louis University research

Common Indian fruit might be helpful in fighting cancer

According to recent research, the Asian karela fruit -also known as the bitter melon- shows promise in slowing the progression of cancer. It has properties that prevent cancer from growing and spreading.

The bitter melon, which is cooked like a vegetable and has seeds like a fruit, stops cancer cells in their tracks, St. Louis University research found. Conducted in the laboratory and in mice, the research has not yet been tried in people, but points to bitter melon as a potential alternative therapy to complement traditional cancer treatments, the researcher says.

“All animal model studies that we’ve conducted are giving us similar results, an approximately 50% reduction in tumor growth,” said Ratna Ray, Ph.D., professor of pathology at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. “Our next step is to conduct a pilot study in cancer patients to see if bitter melon has clinical benefits and is a promising additional therapy to current treatments.”

“Natural products play a critical role in the discovery and development of numerous drugs for the treatment of various types of deadly diseases, including cancer. Therefore, the use of natural products as preventive medicine is becoming increasingly important,” Ray said.

Her recent research, which was published online in Cell Communication and Signaling in October, builds upon years of work that shows bitter melon inhibits the replication of breast, prostate and head and neck cancer cells in a petri dish and in a mouse model. For instance, her 2018 paper found bitter melon reduced the incidence of tongue cancer in a mouse model and was the most cited paper of the year for the American Association for Cancer Research’s Cancer Prevention Research.


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