Garlic study raises hopes for rare brain cancer

Garlic may be used to treat brain cancers, The Times reported on September 1 2007. The newspaper reported that scientists had found that certain organic compounds in garlic kill tumours. The type of tumour in question, glioblastoma, tends to kill people soon after they are diagnosed.

The article continues that it will be several years until this finding can be used for the treatment of cancer. In the meantime, the researchers recommend making the most of garlic’s “potential cancer-preventing powers”, by peeling it and leaving for 15 minutes before cooking to release the enzyme that contains the “anti-cancer” compounds.

This study is based on research looking at the effects of garlic compounds on brain cancer cells grown in the laboratory. The Times story correctly includes some note of caution about the fact that therapies based on these findings are a long way off. The study did not assess whether eating garlic could prevent cancer, or the effects of garlic compounds in people with tumours; it only looked at brain tumour cells grown in the laboratory.

This study cannot tell us what benefits we might gain from eating garlic, and we certainly should not change our consumption of garlic based on this study.

Where did the story come from?

Dr Arabinda Das, and colleagues from the Medical University of South Carolina carried out this research. The study was funded in part by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal: Cancer.


What kind of scientific study was this?

This was a laboratory study assessing the effects of garlic compounds on brain tumour cells.


The researchers grew human glioblastoma (a type of brain tumour) cells in the laboratory. They then treated some of these cells with increasing concentrations of three compounds found in garlic. Other cells which were not treated with these compounds were used as controls. They then looked at whether the treated and control cells survived. They also looked at what changes were happening in the cells that might explain how and why they lived or died.