Rice is a staple food for nearly half of all people on earth. In fact, in Southeast Asia, 60 percent of all food consumed is rice, and it provides one-fifth of the calories consumed by humans. In fact, anthropologists believe that rice is one of the oldest staple foods, having been cultivated for at least five millennia. It’s a good source of B-complex vitamins and important minerals such as iron and potassium. Now medical researchers say components of rice may have cancer-fighting properties.
Unorganized cell masses called calli in the rice were cultured by a research team at Michigan Technological University The callus cultures turned out to create a substance that kills cancer cells. Within four days, the solution had killed 95 percent of kidney cancer cells, and nearly a many colon cancer cells. That makes the solution more effective than the popular chemotherapy drug Taxol, which was originally manufactured from yew tree bark. Healthy cells exposed to the rice callus solution were almost entirely unaffected by it, which means rice-derived medications may allow patients to avoid the side effects associated with current types of chemotherapy. The researchers speculate that the substances in rice that make it healthy are also responsible for its effectiveness against cancer. Plant foods have healthful metabolic compounds; the study’s lead author, Ramakrishna Wusirika, believes that it is these compounds that are killing the cancer cells.
While the solution’s effectiveness against kidney and colon cancers is good news, the most common types of cancer in the United States—also generally treated with Taxol—are prostate cancer, lung cancer, and breast cancer. It remains to be seen whether Wusirika’s team’s discovery will be effective on those types of tumors. Another question Wuisirika says merits further exploration is exactly what it is in the callus solution that allows it to fight the cancer, which specific compounds are responsible. It may be individual components, or it may be several or even all the various chemicals in the solution working together; whatever it is, finding and isolating it is expected to help lead to the development of newer and better medications.