Can rice cure cancer? Three Chhattisgarh varieties can, claim researchers

Can rice cure cancer? Well, if researchers working on a joint project of Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya (IGKV), Raipur, and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai, are right, three traditional rice varieties cultivated largely by tribal farmers of Chhattisgarh have been found to possess qualities that can cure lung and breast cancers. 

Their preliminary findings, however, have been strongly disputed by the medical fraternity and activists who are working relentlessly in creating cancer awareness. 

They have contended that such claims are hard to believe and have not been substantiated by the medical science. 

‘Lycha’, ‘Gauthan’ and ‘Maharaji’ — the three traditional rice varieties — have long exited the state’s large scale cultivation scene and are presently confined to a few backyard farms by local communities. Of these ‘Lycha’ cultivated in and around Dhamtari, Kondagaon, and Kanker districts of Chhattisgarh has been known to cure skin diseases.  ‘Gauthan’ and ‘Maharaji’ cultivated in and around the districts of Mahasamund and Dhamtari have also been known for possessing medicinal qualities among the locals. But, these were never commercially exploited as majority of farmers had stopped cultivating these varieties. 

However, students from the IGKV, who have been working on these varieties for the past two years, took samples from the three rice varieties for further research to the BARC. Preliminary  experiments done through methanol extracts from the three varieties in the BARC, when tested for their anti-cancer efficacy in human breast cancer cells and lung cancer cells, stopped their multiplication.Among these, Lycha extract was most effective in killing human breast cancer cells. “The initial result clearly show that these rice varieties have anti-cancer properties, which if established through proper research and supplemented by strong marketing efforts, could be boon for millions of cancer patients all over the world,” Deepak Sharma, coordinator of the joint project by IGKV and BARC, told Business Standard.

He said while ‘chemo’ or radiation therapy destroyed infected as well as good cells, the rice extracts were found to be lowering only the count of infected cells.

According to publicly available data in India, lung cancer constitutes 6.9 per cent of all new cancer cases and 9.3 per cent of all cancer-related deaths in both males and females (one of the commonest cause of cancer and cancer related mortality in men) while, breast cancer has been ranked number one cancer cases among Indian females with age adjusted rate as high as 25.8 per 100,000 women and mortality of 12.7 per 100,000 women.

Sharma, meanwhile, said there was need to establish the efficacy of these varieties for which they had tied up with five major research organisations, including Advanced Centre for Cancer Biology of the Tata Memorial Institute, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad, and National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.“We along with these major research institutes are also working to develop food supplements like ‘Bournvita’ from these extracts, which can be easily consumable as it is not possible to eat large quantities of rice,” he added. Medical practitioners and people working in the field of cancer awareness have refuted such claims.  

“Frankly speaking, I don’t believe these claims. There have been so many products in the past also which claimed to cure cancer, but nobody knows what their fates have been. Such diets, at best, can be preventive measures, but can’t be replacement of treatments like chemotherapy,” said Rita Banik, founder President of ‘RACE to Rein In Cancer’, a group which creates cancer awareness, told Business Standard.

Banik, a cancer survivor and is the author of the acclaimed book, ‘Kick The Beast Out of Your Life”, said to prevent cancer one had to maintain a balanced diet like large quantities vitamin B-17 and so on. 

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