Dr Suzanne Mashtoub, from the School of Medicine and Pharmacology at the University of Western Australia, is believed to be the only researcher in the world looking at the use of emu oil as an internal treatment for bowel diseases.
The aim of her research is to give emu oil to people who have inflammatory bowel disease to help prevent it progressing into cancer
"My primary goal with this research is to investigate whether emu oil can reduce inflammation and repair damage in the bowel caused by ulcerative colitis, and subsequently monitor if we can then prevent the development of bowel cancer," Mashtoub said.
Emu oil has been used for thousands of years by Australia’s indigenous people to provide pain relief, and more recently research has highlighted the benefits of topical applications of emu oil to treat inflammatory skin conditions such as arthritis.
"I'm also looking at experimenting with different batches of emu oil and making sure that the efficacy of emu oil is consistent regardless of where it comes from.”
The laboratory-based research is expected to be finished by early next year. 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.
“‘A grant from Cancer Council WA] will help me to further explore the therapeutic effectiveness of emu oil, which I'm hoping will have a positive impact on patients suffering from these incurable conditions.
"I know many friends and family who have been affected by cancer so I've seen first-hand the side effects of treatments like chemotherapy.”
Mashtoub said there is also a great deal of interest among patients in using natural medicines to find relief from these conditions.