The herb oregano, commonly used in Italian foods and as a pizza topping, contains a compound that can kill prostate cancer, laboratory studies have shown.
Scientists tested carvacrol, acomponent of oregano, on lines of cancer cells. They found that the chemicalinduced apoptosis, or programmed "cell suicide".
Apoptosisis one of the ways the body rids itself of malfunctioning or malignant cells,such as those found in tumours.
The US researchers are trying to identify the signalling pathways that triggered the reaction.
– Dr Supriya Bavadekar, Long Island University, New York state
A significant advantage is that oregano is commonly used in food and has a 'generally recognised as safe' status. We expect this to translate into a decreased risk of severe toxic effects.
"Some researchers have previously shown that eating pizza may cut down cancer risk. This effect has been mostly attributed to lycopene, a substance found in tomato sauce, but we now feel that even the oregano seasoning may play a role.
"If the study continues to yield positive results, this super-spice may represent a very promising therapy for patients with prostate cancer."
The findings are being presented today at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego, California.