Berries may boost chemotherapy treatment

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A British study suggests that the addition of wild berries to standard cancer treatment may make it more effective.

Researchers at the University of Southampton and King’s College Hospital combined a common pancreatic cancer chemotherapy drug with the American chokeberry. They found that the berries increased the effectiveness of the medication, which resulted in laboratory cells being killed quicker.

Researchers are extremely excited about these findings as it suggests that micronutrients found naturally in plants could be used more widely when combined with other cancer treatments.

The study indicated that when the berries were added to gemcitabine, a form of chemotherapy, the treatment became more effective, allowing cancer cells to die within two days of treatment being given to the cells in the laboratory.

The berries that were used can be found in eastern North America in the swamp and wetlands regions. They are high in antioxidants and vitamins, as well as different polyphenols, which are compounds believed to have the ability to clean up the harmful by-products of normal activity in the cells.

This discovery could lead to new cancer treatments being developed by using polyphenols found in soya beans, green tea, grapes, peanuts, turmeric and mulberries.

The chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa, was tested after previous research suggested that adding a food or part thereof that offers medicinal benefits to chemotherapy cycles may improve the effectiveness of standard drugs.

During the study, the growth of pancreatic cancer cells were assessed after undergoing only chemotherapy, only the chokeberry extract, or a combination of the two methods.

The University of Southampton’s Dr Bashir Lwaleed said that the results were very exciting. He said the low doses of the extract boosted the effectiveness of gemcitabine when the two methods were combined. They also found that lower dosages of the conventional drug were required, which suggests that the combination of the compounds is effective, or the extract boosts the effect.

He added that this research may pave the way to dealing effectively with hard to treat cancers.

Additional clinical trials are due to take place in the future, to determine the potential of micronutrients occurring naturally in plants, such as in the chokeberry.

Other studies have indicated that chokeberry extract appears to promote cell death and curb brain cancer invasiveness.

Image Credit: Joshua Mayer

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