Kumara takes on colon cancer

Dr Khalid Assadi. Photo supplied

Local Iraqi-Kiwi researcher Dr Khalid Asadi has made a major breakthrough in the field of colon cancer.

The home grown, purple variety of kumara, can prevent colorectal cancer by 75 per cent, says the Botany-based researcher whose thesis has evoked great interest in the medical world.

With New Zealand ranking second in the world in terms of its high incidence of colon cancer, Dr Asadi says that the anthocyanin-rich food supports not only the immune system to recognise colon cancer cells but also helps to fight heart disease preventing some chronic inflammatory diseases and slowing the aging process.

A medical doctor from Iraq, Dr Asadi was granted a PhD in biomedical science from the Auckland University, Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre in 2007.

However, the university embargoed public access to the project and thesis for three years “due to it containing sensitive and important data which could be used for commercial purpose,” he says.

Unfortunately, the three years turned to nine and it was in the beginning of this year that Mr Asadi received permission to publish his research in scientific journals as well as for the Plant and Food Research Institute that developed the purple sweet potato (PSP), Kumara, now available in the market.

The research published in the Journal of Cancer Prevention drew a lot of attention in the US with Dr Asadi now having been invited to speak at the 11th Annual World Cancer Congress 2018 in Philadelphia, USA. It is an international conference providing best practices exchange amongst 8000-plus global cancer research and health professionals.

“We have examined the chemo preventative properties of the SL222 sweet potato in MIN mice (Multiple Intestinal Neoplasia) that are born with colon cancer. They hold the same gene as the humans responsible for bowel cancer. It’s the Adenomatosis Polyposis Colic (APC) Gene.”

Dr Asadi, who has worked with around 600 mice over a period of five years, found that when the purple kumara was fed to three generations of mice with colon cancer, it reduced the number of polyps by two thirds or more.

“While the American research for cancer prevention concentrated on berries and blueberries, around 10 years ago we found that New Zealand kumara contains high concentration of Anthocyanin, 82.5 per cent of which is a powerful antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour and anti-carcinogenisis properties.”

To get the full benefit, one would have to eat almost 1kg a day of the nutritious purple kumara. Which is why he thinks a concentrated extract in a tablet form could work wonders.

“Right now the research is organic and we need to do human trials. For that we need funding.”

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