Research presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference (BPC) in Manchester, shows that a compound extracted from tangerine peel can kill certain human cancer cells.
Researchers based at the Leicester School of Pharmacy showed that human cancer cells (which contain an enzyme called P450 CYP1B1) were destroyed by a compound called Salvestrol Q40, contained in tangerine peel. Some types of human cancer cells contain abnormally high levels of P450 CYP1B1.(1), (2)
Salvestrol Q40 is found in the skin of fruits but is removed from the diet when fruit is eaten without its peel or is processed for fruit-based products such as fruit juice.
Medicinal chemist Dr Hoon L. Tan said: "Salvestrols may offer a new mechanism of dietary anti-cancer action. Indeed, the depletion of salvestrols in the modern diet is due to the fact that many people no longer eat the skin of fruits and this may be a major contributory factor to the increasing incidence of some cancers in the human population."
The researchers have formed a private company, Nature's Defence Investments, to protect and promote their research, with the potential of designing a natural anti-cancer alternative based on this new technology.
Dr Tan said: "It is very exciting to find a compound in food that can target cancers specifically. However, it is still early days and many tests will be needed before reaching the clinical trial stage."
(1). Murray GI, et al. Cancer Research 1997;57(14)3026-31.
(2). Potter GA, et al. British Journal of Cancer 2002;86:774-8.