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Indian pepper holds key for cancer-fighting drug

Indian long pepper

Indian long pepper may soon be used as a potential cancer treatment drug, according to a new study. It contains a chemical that could stop the body from producing an enzyme that is commonly found in tumors in large numbers, according to a study in Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Long pepper’s medicinal properties date back thousands of years. Its benefits were even cited by Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician known as the father of medicine. Its cancer-fighting secret lies in a chemical called Piperlongumine (PL), which has shown activity against many cancers including prostate, breast, lung, colon, lymphoma, leukemia, primary brain tumors and gastric cancer.

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 tumors.