(NaturalNews) Extract of bitter melon appears to block growth and induce death of cancerous cells, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado and Saint Louis University, and published in the journal Cancer Research.
"Our findings suggest that bitter melon extract modulates several signal transduction pathways, which induces breast cancer cell death," said lead researcher Ratna B. Ray. "This extract can be utilized as a dietary supplement for the prevention of breast cancer."
Bitter melon, also known as bitter gourd and wild cucumber, is the fruit of the plant Momordica charantia, a vine in the gourd family that grows in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. The fruit is popular in Asia, Africa, China and the Caribbean, and is used in traditional medicine as a treatment for diabetes and infection.
Researchers tested bitter melon extract on cancer cells in the laboratory, and found that the extract suppressed cell division signals and stimulated signals leading to programmed cell death (apoptosis).
"Breast cancer is a major killer among women around the world, and in that perspective, results from this study are quite significant," researcher Rajesh Agarwal said. "This study may provide us with one more agent as an extract that could be used against breast cancer if additional studies hold true."
The researchers are now conducting follow-up studies with a wider variety of cancer cell lines to confirm their results. They are also scheduling a preliminary trial in human patients to see if an oral dose of bitter melon extract can improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
Agarwal warned that there is not any evidence yet that bitter melon extract alone can help prevent cancer. This concern was echoed by Jessica Harris of Cancer Research UK.
"The most up-to-date, reliable evidence shows that drinking less alcohol, being physically active and keeping a healthy weight can reduce the risk of breast cancer," Harris said.