Two Indian scientists have developed a new method that advocates the use of a garlic component to treat cancer-causing tumours .
D. Karunagaran, a professor at the department of biotechnology at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Madras, and Suby Oommen, a PhD student at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology in Kerala, have been working on garlic-based components and their effects on cancer cells from 1998.
The researchers said the novel treatment involves a synergistic composition comprising a garlic organosulphur compound Diallyl trisulfide (DATS) and an anti-cancer agent.
DATS, a constituent of garlic, is one of a group of substances that contain sulphur and anti-cancer agent is a substance that prevents, kills or blocks the growth or spread of cancer cells.
DATS acts synergistically with taxol-most commonly used anti-cancer agent to treat ovarian, breast and non-small cell lung cancers.
The treatment option given is a combination of taxol and DATS, Karunagaran told IANS in an Internet interview.
Although this idea is not new, the application of this idea to this set of compounds is new.
The inventors have filed a patent for their invention. Once granted the patent will be in the name of Kerala's Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology where the work was carried out.
"Our findings are mainly at the laboratory level and we really have no clue as to how effective this will be at the patient level. But then this is how everything begins at the initial stages," Karunagaran said.
Garlic (Allium sativum), a member of the Allium family, is one of the earliest documented plants for its manifold uses. Authoritative texts of ancient times endorse its usage not only in the medicine chest but also for religious purposes, Karunagaran said.
The knowledge of its beneficiary effects found its usage span across all the major ancient civilizations.
Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese and Indians used garlic for centuries for treating various ailments such as heart disease, arthritis, pulmonary complaints, abdominal growths (particularly uterine) and worm infestation. It was in 1958 that its anti-tumour properties were clearly documented.
Garlic has more than 30 different organosulphur compounds. Many of these can inhibit the proliferation whereas some of them can induce apoptosis (a form of programmed cell death) in cancer cells, Karunagaran said.
The main clue from the present invention is that a composition comprising a garlic organosulphur compound together with an anti-cancer agent may work well for treatment of tumors, he said.
However, these data are mainly based on in vitro studies and extending them to the patient level takes time and should involve further studies including human clinical trials, he said.