Indian Spices used in Nanomedicines to treat cancer

GS Paper III

News Excerpt:

Recently, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, have patented the use of Indian spices to develop Nanomedicines to treat cancer.

About the Nanomedicines:

  • The application of nanotechnology for medical purposes has been termed nanomedicine and is defined as the use of nanomaterials for diagnosis, monitoring, control, prevention and treatment of diseases.
    • It uses the properties developed by a material at its nanometric scale of 10^-9 m.
  • The patented Indian spice-based nano-formulations have proven effective in common types of cancers through in-vitro studies.
    • The nanomedicines have shown anti-cancer activity against lung, breast, colon, cervical, oral and thyroid cell lines.
    • They were found to be safe in normal cells. 
  • Animal studies have been carried out on the patented anti-cancer nano-formulations.
    • Animal validation to adjust the dosage (GLP phase) and efficacy studies (non-GLP phase) have been carried out successfully.
    • The drug dosage adjustment and efficacy are under investigation through animal models.
    • Clinical trials will follow this.

Significance of the newly patented Nanomedicine:

  • India is the world’s largest spice producer. Hence, large-scale production could be achieved at a low cost.
  • The medical benefits of Indian spice oils have been known through the ages, but their bioavailability has limited their application and use. 
    • Formulation as a nano-emulsion effectively overcomes this limitation. 
      • The stability of the nano-emulsion was a key consideration in the process of making medicine effective.
    • The spices chosen are edible. Hence, biocompatibility is good, reducing toxic side effects.
  • This cancer nanomedicine is being developed to reduce the cost and pain of cancer treatment.
  • The formulations are developed for an oral route of administration to ease the treatment process.
  • Cancer nanomedicine is considered superior to conventional treatment strategies owing to its reduced toxicity, improved drug accumulation, suitable size spectrum in the nanometre range and increased circulation time.

How does cancer develop?

  • Cancer is a genetic disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other body parts. 
  • Genetic changes that cause cancer can happen because:
    • Of errors that occur as cells divide. 
    • Of damage to DNA caused by harmful substances in the environment, such as the chemicals in tobacco smoke and ultraviolet rays from the sun. 
    • Of inheriting offspring from their parents.       
  • The body normally eliminates cells with damaged DNA before they turn cancerous. However, the body’s ability to do so decreases as one ages. 
    • This is part of the reason why there is a higher risk of cancer later in life.
  • Each person’s cancer has a unique combination of genetic changes. As the cancer continues to grow, additional changes will occur. 
    • Even within the same tumour, different cells may have different genetic changes.


The development of Indian spice-based nanomedicines for cancer treatment by IIT Madras shows promising results in targeting various cancer cells with minimal toxicity to normal cells. With potential cost reduction, reduced side effects, and improved bioavailability, this innovation holds significant promise for more effective and accessible cancer treatment.

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