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Indian pepper may be a cancer fighter

Pepper

The Indian long pepper, widely popular for spicing up food, may soon be used as a potential cancer treatment drug, according to a new study.

The Indian long pepper contains a chemical that could stop your body from producing an enzyme that is commonly found in tumours in large numbers, according to the study in Journal of Biological Chemistry.

UT Southwestern Medical Enter scientists have 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, leukaemia, primary brain tumours and gastric cancer.

Detoxification enzyme

Using X-ray crystallography, researchers were able to create molecular structures that show how the chemical is transformed after being ingested. 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 tumours, the study said.

“We are hopeful that our structure will enable additional drug development efforts in order to improve the potency of PL for its use in a wide range of cancer therapies,” said Dr. Kenneth Westover, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Radiation Oncology.

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