Indian pepper holds key for new cancer-fighting drug, says study

The new study suggests that the Indian long pepper, widely popular for spicing up food may soon be used as a potential cancer treatment drug

long-pepper

Scientist from UT Southwestern Medical Center has recently uncovered the chemical process behind anti-cancer properties of a spicy Indian pepper plant called the long pepper, whose suspected medicinal properties date back thousands of years.

The secret lies in a chemical called Piperlongumine (PL), which has shown activity against many cancers including prostate, breast, lung, colon, lymphoma, leukemia, primary brain tumours and gastric cancer. Using x-ray crystallography, researchers were able to create molecular structures that show how the chemical is transformed after being ingested.

According to a study, PL converts to hPL, an active drug that silences a gene called GSTP1. The GSTP1 gene produces a detoxification enzyme that is often overly abundant in tumors.

Dr Kenneth Westover, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Radiation Oncology said, "We are hopeful that our structure will enable additional drug development efforts to improve the potency of PL for use in a wide range of cancer therapies. This research is a spectacular demonstration of the power of x-ray crystallography. This study illustrates the importance of examining and re-examining our theories. In this case we learned something fundamentally new about a 3,000-year-old medical claim using modern science. X-ray crystallography allows scientists to determine molecular structures that reveal how molecules interact with targets - in this case how PL interacts with GSTP1. This work is supported by the V Foundation for Cancer Research, founded by ESPN and legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano, The Welch Foundation, and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas"

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