University of Windsor anti-cancer crusader may have discovered his most effective agent yet — a fruit that causes evil cells to commit suicide.
Dr. Siyaram Pandey, known for promising work on dandelion root extract, is thrilled with results from his initial research on long pepper fruit.
"It is very potent, which is surprising, actually," said Pandey. "I wouldn't be exaggerating to say it's a little bit better than dandelion root extract."
Pandey led a group of researchers, who published their long pepper paper in the November edition of the scholarly journal PLOS One. Pandey's team included Pamela Ovadje, Dennis Ma, Phillip Tremblay, Alessia Roma and Matthew Steckle, as well as John Thor Arnason from the University of Ottawa.
A compound from the long pepper fruit was first identified in the 1960s, but was then forgotten for decades until researchers at Howard University in Boston published a paper in 2011. The Bostonians screened 25,000 compounds for possible cancer-fighting properties and listed piper longum — or long pepper — at the top.
"So we asked the question, if they showed a single compound has activity from long pepper, why don't we test the total extract from long pepper fruit?" asked Pandey. "We're finding out that there are many more compounds present in the extract and they might be working in synergy against the cancer cells."
The extract was produced with the help of alcohol, which was then evaporated away, leaving a powder that holds great promise. Clinical trials still need to be conducted, however, which Pandey says is the next hurdle: finding funding to go forward. He's proud, however, that the long pepper fruit research so far was all locally funded, thanks to donations from Seeds 4 Hope, Pajama Angels, the Knights of Columbus, and the family of Kevin Couvillion, who died in 2010 at the age of 26 after a three-year battle with myeloid leukemia.
Pandey has also attracted support in the past from the Toronto-based Jesse and Julie Rasch Foundation, which funds research into natural health products and their effectiveness in treating lymphoma.
The beauty of natural products is they aren't as toxic as traditional cancer treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy.
"One of the major struggles with cancer therapy is whatever we use to kill cancer cells also kills healthy cells, which is a very bad side effect," Pandey said.
The long pepper fruit extract, however, seems to do a remarkable thing: trick cancer cells into cutting off their own energy. It leads to cancer apoptosis. In other words, suicide. Best of all, healthy cells just continue on as happy as you please.
"It's difficult to imagine that after 50 or 60 years of research we still don't have a selective drug," Pandey said. "So with the long pepper fruit, we are very excited. We feel the extract targets multiple things and forces the cell to commit suicide."