'Poor man's toothpaste' may reduce oral cancer risk

UT Health Science Center to begin oral cancer prevention research with Neem tree

neem-tree

At the UT Health Science Center's Wargovich Laboratory, there is a lot of research centered around the foods we eat -- specifically, plants.

"It suggests that people who have always used herbs and spices in their everyday cooking are at reduced risk for a lot of the major cancers," said Professor of Molecular Medicine Dr. Michael Wargovich.

Herbs and spices are natural anti-inflammatories, as are the chemicals found in the Neem tree.

"In India, it's considered 'nature's drugstore,'" said UT Health Science Center Research Fellow Keya Mukopadhyay.

Mukopadhyay, whose native country is India, said the Neem tree, which is found in most backyards, has been used to treat multiple conditions dating back 2,000 years.

"In India and Africa, for dental health, they will find this Neem tree. They will crack off a piece of the stem and they will use it to brush teeth," Wargovich said.

Specifically, the bitter chemicals in the leaves are what make the toothpaste beneficial.

"The wonderful thing here is in collaboration with India, they're getting super-critical extractive Neem, which is basically free from all sorts of impurities," Mukhopadhyay said.

Wargovich plans to test Neem as a primary preventative for oral cancer in the local trial.

In South Carolina, another clinical trial starts next month using Neem in mouth wash for cancer patients.

"The cancer patients are getting it because one of the most common side effects of cancer therapy is inflammation of the mouth," Wargovich said.

The Neem extract shows promise as a preventative and a cure, which Wargovich said could be a great potential alternative to heavy doses of chemotherapy.

Wargovich will be giving a presentation on cancer prevention cooking April 11 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the HEB Partner Health Center at 4949 Rittiman Road.

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