Groundbreaking Perth research is investigating whether taking emu oil capsules could help cut bowel cancer rates.
Dr Suzanne Mashtoub, of the University of WA's school of medicine and pharmacology, is being awarded a $25,000 Early Career Investigator grant by Cancer Council WA to test if the natural remedy could treat bowel diseases that can lead to cancer.
Dr Mashtoub, a National Health and Medical Research Council post-doctoral research fellow, is believed to be the only researcher in the world looking at using emu oil as an internal treatment for bowel diseases.
She said Aboriginal people had used emu oil for thousands of years to provide relief from pain, and research had shown the benefits of applying emu oil to the skin to treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
"We know it has anti-inflammatory benefits when applied topically, so with inflammation in the intestinal tract we thought if we apply it orally, then we might see the same beneficial effects on the inside as well as the outside," Dr Mashtoub said.
"We'll look at whether emu oil can reduce inflammation and repair damage in the bowel caused by ulcerative colitis, and subsequently monitor if we can prevent the development of bowel cancer."
The laboratory-based research is expected to be finished by early next year. Dr Mashtoub hopes clinical trials will not be far off, particularly because emu oil capsules are already approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and readily available.
The aim would be to give emu oil to people who had inflammatory bowel disease to help prevent it progressing into cancer.
The grant is part of almost $3.2 million in research funding the Cancer Council will announce tomorrow.