Researchers from Kimmel Cancer at Jefferson, Philadelphia have found that a herb that has been long used in traditional medicine by many Middle Eastern countries might be helpful against pancreatic cancer.

Thymoquinone, an extract of nigella sativa seed oil, have been found to block pancreatic cancer cell growth and kill the cancerous cells by enhancing the process of programmed cell death.

Although the studies are in the initial stage, this finding suggests that thymoquinone could eventually be used as a preventative strategy in patients who have gone through surgery and chemotherapy as well as in individuals who are at a high risk of developing cancer.

Besides being helpful in the fight against cancerous cells, study authors reported that nigella sativa could also treat a broad array of diseases, including some immune and inflammatory disorders and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Anti-cancer activity of the herb was also seen in prostate and colon cancers.

In their study, the researchers found that adding thymoquinone killed approximately 80 percent of the cancer cells by triggering programmed cell death in the cells and affecting genes p53, Bax, bcl-2 and p21. Nigella sativa increased p53, a tumour suppressor gene as well as Bax, a gene promoting programmed cell death and decreased bcl-2, which blocks such cell death.