Blueberries: How They Help To Kill Cancer Cells.

Blueberries are sometimes branded a “superfood,” and for good reason; they are packed full of antioxidants that offer a wealth of health benefits. Now, a new study has uncovered another use for these little berries: helping to treat cancer.

blueberries

Blueberry extract could help in the fight against cancer, say, researchers.

By studying human cervical cancer cell lines, a team of researchers discovered that adding blueberry extract to radiation therapy can significantly improve treatment efficacy.

Lead study author Dr. Yujiang Fang, who works in the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and colleagues recently reported their results in Pathology and Oncology Research.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), around 12,820 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, and more than 4,200 women are expected to die from the disease.

Radiation therapy remains a primary treatment for cervical cancer. It involves using high-energy radiation to destroy cancer cells.

“For some cancers, such as late-stage cervical cancer, radiation is a good treatment option,” says Dr. Fang. “However, collateral damage to healthy cells always occurs.”

For their study, the researchers set out to determine whether or not blueberry extract could be used as a radiosensitizer, which is a compound that makes cancer cells more vulnerable to radiation therapy.

Blueberry extract ‘tricks’ cancer cells

In previous research, Dr. Fang and colleagues revealed that resveratrol — a compound present in grapes and red wine — helped to sensitize prostate cancer cells to radiation therapy.

The researchers note that blueberries also contain resveratrol, as well as flavonoids. “Flavonoids,” notes Dr. Fang, “are chemicals that may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.”

The team tested blueberry extract on human cancer cell lines for their latest study. The extract was tested both alone and in combination with radiation therapy. These effects were compared with those of radiation therapy alone.

While radiation therapy alone reduced the number of cancer cells by 20 percent, the blueberry extract alone led to a 25 percent reduction in cancer cells.

However, when the blueberry extract and radiation therapy were combined, the number of human cervical cancer cells fell by around 70 percent.

The researchers explain that the blueberry extract does not only make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation, but it also reduces the abnormal cell growth that fuels cancer development.

“Cancer cells avoid death by remodeling themselves,” continues Dr. Fang. “Along with reducing cell proliferation, the extract also ‘tricks’ cancer cells into dying. So it inhibits the birth and promotes the death of cancer cells.”

While further studies are needed, the researchers say that their findings indicate that blueberries may be a promising treatment strategy for cervical cancer and other cancer types.

Blueberries are very common and found all over the world. They are readily accessible and inexpensive. As a natural treatment option for boosting the effectiveness of existing therapies, I feel they would be enthusiastically accepted.”

Dr. Yujiang Fang

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Turmeric, Red Grape, and Apple Compounds ‘Starve’ Prostate Cancer Cells

An Apple peel compound can halt the growth of prostate cancer cells when combined with compounds from red grapes or turmeric.
What do turmeric, apples, and grapes have in common? According to a new study, they could hold the key to preventing and treating one of the most common cancers in the United States.

Researchers have identified a number of natural compounds that have the potential to “starve” prostate cancer tumors and shrink them.

Compounds present in turmeric, red grapes, and apple peel appear to have the strongest effect, particularly in combination.

Study co-author Stefano Tiziani, of the Department of Nutritional Sciences and the Dell Pediatric Research Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the journal Precision Oncology.

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be 161,360 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed this year, and around 26,730 men will die from the disease.

Previous studies have identified a number of compounds, particularly found in plant-based foods, that have the potential to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

For this latest study, Tiziani and colleagues used a novel, high-throughput screening technique to test 142 natural compounds, with the aim of identifying those that are most effective for halting the growth of prostate cancer cells.

Compound combination blocked tumor growth in mice

The compounds were tested on prostate cancer cells derived from mice and humans, individually and in combination.

The team identified three compounds that were most effective for halting prostate cancer cell growth:

  • curcumin, the bright yellow compound in turmeric
  • ursolic acid, found in apple peel
  • resveratrol, found in red grapes and berries

These three compounds were then tested in mouse models of prostate cancer.

The researchers found that when ursolic acid was combined with either curcumin or resveratrol, the natural compounds prevented the uptake of glutamine by prostate cancer cells, which prevented tumor growth in the mice.

Glutamine is an amino acid that prostate cancer cells need in order to grow, so preventing its uptake effectively “starves” the cancer cells to death.

What is more, because ursolic acid, curcumin, and resveratrol are natural compounds, they did not cause any toxic effects in the mice.

However, the researchers note that the concentrations of each of the three compounds were higher than that which is normally consumed through diet. Still, the team believes that the findings show promise for a natural strategy to prevent and treat prostate cancer.

These nutrients have potential anti-cancer properties and are readily available. We only need to increase concentration beyond levels found in a healthy diet for an effect on prostate cancer cells.”