Can Bitter Melon Juice Treat Pancreatic Cancer?

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to treat. By the time it’s diagnosed, it’s usually at an advanced state, leaving little to offer in the area of treatment.

Little advancement has been made with traditional therapies, leading scientists to look elsewhere for answers.

Interestingly enough, scientists at the University of Colorado may have found a breakthrough with bitter melon juice.

Why? Because a recent study revealed it killed pancreatic cancer cells in culture and in mice.

Bitter Melon Juice Reduced Tumor Growth By 60%

Bitter melon is a fruit that grows in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. Traditionally it has been used to treat diabetes. This is what spiked the interest of Dr. Rajesh Agarwal, a lead researcher in the Colorado study. He thought bitter melon might treat pancreatic cancer, since Type II diabetes often precedes the disease.

Researchers examined the effect of bitter melon on 4 different lines of pancreatic cancer cells and in mice. Mice were injected with pancreatic tumor cells and were randomly divided into one of two groups. One group received water (control), and the second was given bitter melon juice for six weeks. At the end of the study, the tumors that developed on the mice were dissected, weighed, and analyzed.

The results showed that bitter melon juice inhibited cancer cell proliferation and induced apoptosis (cell death). Tumor growth was inhibited by 60% in the treatment group with no signs of toxicity.1

Bitter Melon Regulates Insulin, Which Fuels Tumor Growth

In addition to treating pancreatic cancer, bitter melon may have the potential to prevent it as well. Bitter melon helps to regulate the secretion of insulin from pancreatic cells.2

Many tumors have insulin receptors which transport glucose to cancer cells, helping them to grow, divide, and multiply. Studies show insulin encourages pancreatic cancer cells to grow in a dose-dependent manner.3

In addition, having diabetes is a risk factor for the disease. Metformin, an insulin-sensitizing drug, has been shown to improve the survival rate in diabetic, pancreatic cancer patients.1

Bitter Melon Combats Other Cancers Too

Further studies show bitter melon displays anti-tumor effects for other cancers including that of the breast, prostate and colon.1

A key mechanism it targets is AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase), a molecule that regulates cell growth and replication.

The Bottom Line

Although the Colorado study certainly does show potential, human studies are needed to confirm the anti-tumor effects of bitter melon juice. Pretty interesting though, isn't it?


  1. Carcinogenesis. 2013 Jul;34(7):1585-92.
  2. Bioinformation. 2012; 8(6): 251–254.
  3. J Surg Res. 1996 Jun;63(1):310-3.



Anonymous said...

Where can you procure bitter melon juice or the fruit?

Life Extension said...

Anonymous - Bitter melon can be purchased at Indian groceries. Supplements are available in health food stores.

Life Extension said...

Rui de Castro - Glad you found it so!

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