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The Jamaicas allspice is known for flavoring cuisines around the world with a blend of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pimento and pepper, but according to a new study by University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine researchers in Florida, United States, (US) the aromatic spice could be known one day for impeding the growth of, or maybe even preventing, prostate cancer, the number-two cancer-killer of men in the US.
In the study published online last month in the Oxford Journal's Carcinogenics and led by Bal L. Lokeshwar, PhD, professor of urology and radiation oncology and co-director of research in the Department of Urology, researchers demonstrated that Ericifolin, a complex compound in the allspice berry, Pimenta dioica, significantly slows the growth of prostate cancertumors by suppressing the androgen receptor (AR). A molecule central to the growth and metastasis of prostate cancer, AR enables prostate cancer cells to survive even after hormone therapy, which along with surgery and radiation is the standard treatment for prostate cancer.
"Androgen receptor, or AR for short, is the principal drug target for the treatment of prostate cancer, but there is no drug that completely eliminates AR. This complex compound in allspice seems to do that," Lokeshwar said.
"The most interesting data show that it actually kills tumor cells which express the very specific prostate cancer marker, the androgen receptor. That is not to say that people should start eating allspice with every meal, but there exists the potential that the slow and steady consumption of this chemo-dietary agent may slow or even prevent prostate cancer." For now, Lokeshwar and his study team, including first author Shamaladevi Nagarajarao, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate, and Lei Zhang, a graduate student, have demonstrated that Ericifolin kills prostate cancer cells and reduces tumor growth by more than 50 per cent in animal models, specifically mice that were injected with prostate cancer cells, then, either fed or injected daily doses of an aqueous allspice extract.
"To our surprise, it worked very well," Lokeshwar said. "It was surprising because lots and lots of products kill cells in the test tube, but they are not effective when consumed or injected in animal models. In this case, the tumors did not disappear, but they grew about 50 per cent more slowly with both methods. Further, these mice did not exhibit any obvious toxicity associated with other anticancer drugs."