The research, performed in mouse models and on human cells in a lab, show that bitter melon juice restricts the ability of pancreatic cancer cells to metabolise glucose, therefore cutting off the cells' energy supply and eventually killing the cancer.
Writing in the journal Carcinogenesis, the US-based research team said heir results demonstrate that bitter melon "exerts in vitro in vivo, suggesting its clinical usefulness."
"Three years ago researchers showed the effect of bitter melon extract on breast cancer cells only in a Petri dish," explained Dr Rajesh Agarwal from the University of Colorado Denver. " This study goes much, much farther."
"We show that it affects the glucose metabolism pathway to restrict energy and kill pancreatic cancer cells," he said, noting that the team also used bitter melon juice, rather than an extract - as the juice is already consumed in many Asian populations.
"It's a very exciting finding," commented the lead researcher. "Many researchers are engineering new drugs to target cancer cells' ability to supply themselves with energy, and here we have a naturally-occurring compound that may do just that."