Award-winning research eyed malunggay (Moringa oleifera) for its potential anticancer properties, after laboratory tests showed extracts from the seeds and leaves to be toxic to colorectal cancer cells.
The study, done by researchers at the De La Salle University and supported by the Philippine Council for the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST), won the recently concluded Poster Exhibit Contest during the 8th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) Week celebration in Cebu City on 12-14 August 2014.
Through an in vitro test, researchers found that extract from malunggay can destroy colorectal cancer cells lines, while remaining safe and non-toxic on normal and healthy human cells. The ability was attributed to a bioactive compound that the researchers found in malunggay called, isothiocyanates. The compound has been previously reported to induce cell death in some human cancer cell lines.
Further test comparing malunggay extract to colchicine, a common anti-cancer drug, found that malunggay extract is less toxic to normal human cells than the commercial drug. Researchers explained that while colchicine is effective in destroying cancer cells, its toxic effect on healthy human cells is a huge disadvantage in using the drug. Therefore, the discovery of malunggay’s relative safety on normal human cell is very promising in search for effective and safe drug for cancer.
Researchers are hopeful that the research can establish strong foundation for further investigations of malunggay’s anticancer property. They said, “This study will provide solid scientific basis for at least one of the most important medicinal benefits that could be attributed to the plant – its anticancer property.”