doi:10.1038/nindia.2013.120 Published online 10 September 2013
Researchers have isolated a polysaccharide from pomegranate peel that can kill human skin, colon and liver cancer cells . This polysaccharide is a potential therapeutic agent that could be used in combination with existing chemotherapy.
Previous studies had shown that pomegranate contains polysaccharides with antioxidant and immune-system-modifying properties. However, no studies had discovered that pomegranate harbours an anticancer polysaccharide.
To find an anticancer compound in pomegranate, the researchers isolated the polysaccharide galactomannan from the peel of this fruit. They then tested the anticancer effects of this polysaccharide on human skin, colon and liver cancer cells and in tumour-bearing albino mice.
The polysaccharide exhibited toxicity against both human and mice cancer cells. In albino mice, this compound was found to be non-toxic up to a concentration of 2,000 mg/kg body weight. The polysaccharide caused cancer cells to commit mass suicide — a process known as apoptosis. The study found that the polysaccharide alone and in combination with doxorubicin, an anticancer drug, significantly reduced tumour burden and increased the lifespan of tumour-bearing mice.
The researchers say that the polysaccharide has the potential of an anticancer agent that could supplement chemotherapy.