EL PASO, Texas — Nimbolide, a compound found in neem leaves, was recently tested against pancreatic cancer in cell lines and mice. These tests, conducted by biomedical scientists at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, found that nimbolide stopped the growth and metastasis of pancreatic cancer, yet did not harm normal, healthy cells.
"The promise nimbolide has shown is amazing, and the specificity of the treatment toward cancer cells over normal cells is very intriguing," Dr. Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy, an Indian American associate professor in the TTUHSC El Paso Center of Emphasis in Cancer, said in a press release.
Currently, pancreatic cancer is fatal for 94 percent of patients who develop the disease within five years of diagnosis. No effective treatments are available, and so it has the highest mortality rate of all cancers.
The compound reduced the capacity of pancreatic cancer cells to migrate and invade by 70 percent, so the cancerous cells did not become aggressive and spread. Metastasis is the chief cause of mortality from the disease.
Furthermore, cancer cell death was induced by nimbolide treatments, as the size and number of pancreatic cancer cell colonies decreased by 80 percent.
"Nimbolide seems to attack pancreatic cancer from all angles," Lakshmanaswamy said. The study found that nimbolide increases the generation of reactive oxygen species, which induces apoptotic cell death mediated by the mitochondria of the cells.
"Many people in India actually eat neem and it doesn't have harmful side effects, which suggests that using nimbolide for pancreatic cancer will not cause adverse effects like chemotherapy and radiation typically do,” said Dr. Ramadevi Subramani, postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the study.
The researchers emphasized that healthy cells were unharmed by nimbolide in both the in vitro and in vivo experiments. Next, the research team plans to pursue both preclinical and clinical investigations.