Research Highlight

Cancer killer from fruit rind

doi:10.1038/nindia.2010.142 Published online 13 October 2010

New research has isolated an organic anti-cancer agent from the fruit rind of the rampatri plant (Myristica malabarica) that is better at killing breast cancer cells than curcumin, offering a new avenue in the fight against breast cancer.

The fruit rind of the rampatri plant is used as an exotic spice in Indian cuisine. The plant has also been recognized in traditional medicine for its ability to protect against liver cancer. While sifting through the extract of the plant's fruit rind, the researchers found four organic compounds — malabaricones (designated as mal A–D).

The researchers studied the anti-cancer effects of these organic compounds and compared their efficacy with curcumin against bacterial DNA and human breast cancer cells.

One of the main traits of an anti-cancer agent is the damage it causes to DNA. Mal C had the best DNA-cleaving ability, producing both open circular and linear forms of DNA. Mal B and curcumin were significantly less active and produced only open circular DNA. Mal A and mal D were inactive.

A 3.5-fold increase in copper concentration was reported in cancerous tissues compared with their non-cancerous counterparts. The study found that both copper ion and mal C were required to produce the DNA strand scission, but were ineffective individually. Mal C initiated the controlled death of breast cancer cells by generating harmful reactive oxygen species.

The authors of this work are from: Bio-Organic Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, and Microbiology Laboratory, Department of Botany, North Bengal University, India.


  1. Patro, S. B. et al. Comparative nuclease and anti-cancer properties of the naturally occurring malabaricones. Bioorg. Med. Chem. 18, 7043-7051 (2010) | Article | PubMed |