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The first pancreatic cancer signs usually come so late that conventional treatment is almost never successful. An extract of the leaf of the neem tree, however, may offer a useful treatment for the disease.

Pancreatic cancer is a devastating diagnosis.

The signs of pancreatic cancer, at least at first, are so ambiguous that it is hard to rule out other conditions that require entirely different kinds of treatment. In its early stages, pancreatic cancer usually causes "stomach" pain, but so do stomach conditions. There can be back pain, but back pain has many other causes. As the condition progresses there is fatigue, which likewise has many possible causes, maybe some weight loss, which many people would actually welcome, darkening of the urine, like the darkening caused by dehydration, maybe darkening of the stools, which would not even be noticed, changes in skin color, and chronic itching. None of these early symptoms screams "You have pancreatic cancer!" 

Laboratory tests are similarly vague. There's a biomarker called CA 19-9 that can be elevated by pancreatic cancer, but about 80 percent of the time elevated CA 19-9 does not mean there's pancreatic cancer, while 10 to 20 percent of pancreatic cancer patients lack the enzyme the body needs to make the diagnostic marker at all. There's another diagnostic marker called carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), but over half of the time pancreatic cancers don't generate this marker, either. For all of these reasons, by the time pancreatic cancer is finally detected, it's hard to treat. Only 28 percent of patients survive as long as a year after diagnosis. Only 7 percent survive for five years.

An East Indian Herb for Pancreatic Cancer?

Researchers have tested thousands of herbs and traditional combinations of herbs for treating pancreatic cancer. One herb that stands out is the leaf of the South Asian neem tree. 

What is neem? Also known by its botanical name Azadirachta, neem is a tropical tree that can not just survive but even thrive on poor soils in places that get scanty rainfall. Its leaves are used in soaps and shampoos as a soothing, anti-inflammatory agent. There is a long list of applications of neem in Ayurvedic medicine. Western researchers noticed that pancreatic cancer cells treated with neem are more susceptible to radiation (that is, neem may make radiation treatment more effective), but a research team led by Dr. Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center has found that a component of neem called nimbolide may have a more direct effect on pancreatic cancer even in lieu of other forms of treatment.

Nimbolide Against Pancreatic Cancer

The researchers in Texas have found that nimbolide acts as a kind of anti-antioxidant. We all have heard how antioxidants protect cell health. They also protect cancer cell health. (There actually are situations in which the risk of cancer  increases if you take excessive amounts of supplemental antioxidants). By encouraging the production of free radicals of oxygen and interfering with the action of antioxidants in way that affects pancreatic cancer cells but not healthy cells, nimbolide keeps pancreatic cancer cells from proliferating, reducing the number of cells growing in a colony in a test tube by 80 percent, and from metastasizing, reducing the spread of pancreatic cancer cells under laboratory conditions by 70 percent.

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