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Turmeric may be used in anti-cancer drug

By Bindu Shajan Perappadan

NEW DELHI, FEB.8. While Pune will host the country's most ambitious clinical trials in developing an Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome vaccine, in the Capital's satellite township of Noida, the Institute of Cytology and Preventive Oncology (ICPO) has quietly reached a milestone.

Looking at the possibility of turmeric being an anti-cancer drug, researchers here have probably for the first time hit upon enough "proof" to state that what had previously been only speculations is indeed a fact.

The results of the research looking into the possibility of turmeric being used as an anti cancer-drug will be released and discussed at the upcoming 24th Annual Convention on "Human Papillomavirus and Cervical Cancer" hosted by ICPO. This would also give the scientific community across the world a chance to take a peek into the infinite possibilities that the discovery has thrown up.

Turmeric is a common ingredient in Indian food and it is the "curcumin", an active ingredient of turmeric, that is found to be a potent inhibitor of human papillomaviruses (HPV) causing one of the most commonly occurring cancers among women in India -- cervical cancer.

While it is known that cervical cancer is caused by the infection of specific types of high-risk HPVs types 16 and 18, the Division of Molecular Oncology, ICPO, has been able to prove that the active ingredient in turmeric can inhibit the action of papillomavirus, preventing the expression of cervical cancer.

"While we aren't sure about the exact mechanism of how turmeric works in the body, we are sure about the action and the "preventive" property of turmeric. And while the research has been published in an international journal, work is now on to investigate the regulatory role of a potential anti-oxidative agent curcumin," explained the ICPO director, B.C. Das.

He said that research was on to find out how the active component enters the cell and the path it takes to protect the body against the cancer causing HPV 16 and 18 virus. "We are sure about the molecular property of turmeric and are now looking into the possibility of active trial projects for which talks are on. And while we are sure about the action of turmeric, we are also looking into the possibility of research into neem, tulsi, ginger and amla -- all part of the Indian system of medicine about which we have known for the past 3,000 years but are only now realising their goodness. Though it might be a while before we arrive at information that people can use, we are actively looking at `medicinal plants' which can give people healthier lives," said an ICPO official.

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