If Lynn Adams’ work bears fruit, women may turn to blueberries as a way to fight a particularly tough form of breast cancer.
Adams, Ph.D., researcher in the Division of Tumor Cell Biology, recently presented findings from her work as part of the inaugural Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Research Symposium. The May symposium featured results from four teams of City of Hope scientists who received CAM research grants from the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and the Integrative Medicine Task Force.
|Lynn Adams (Photo by Darrin S. Joy)|
Research projects ranged from the value of pre-operative hypnosis to the potential of herbal agents to fight diabetes and colorectal cancer.
Adams, for one, evaluates natural products that might help fight prostate and breast cancer. A member of the lab of Shiuan Chen, Ph.D., professor and director of the Division of Tumor Cell Biology, Adams used grant money to pursue studies on blueberries and breast cancer.
As she explained, scientists are seeking ways to better battle “triple-negative” breast cancer. This frequently aggressive form of breast cancer produces none of the three main proteins targeted by most cancer drugs, which makes the cancer tough to fight.
About 10 to 15 percent of all breast cancers are considered triple-negative, and they are more likely than other breast cancers to spread and recur, Adams said.
Through her project, she studied whether blueberry extract could affect signaling pathways and key substances called proteases that influence the spread of triple-negative breast cancer.
Using more than 12 pounds of blueberries donated by fruit company Driscoll’s, Adams and her colleagues — including a student from Duarte High School — conducted a variety of tests with the fruit.
Among other lab findings, they found that blueberry extract stunted triple-negative breast cancer cells’ proliferation more than extracts from vegetables such as bell peppers and broccoli. They also saw that blueberry juice could inhibit cancer cell migration and migration through a membrane, key actions cancer cells must take to invade tissue and spread. The team determined the specific pathways and proteases blueberry extract acts upon.
They even fed blueberry extract to mice with breast tumors and found signs that the extract shrank tumors, kept cells from multiplying and actually pushed the cancer cells to kill themselves — what scientists call apoptosis.
“We hope this research will have the impact of helping us understand how phytochemicals can be used to inhibit cancer,” Adams said. “We perhaps would look at trying to prevent cancer in high-risk women, or reduce risk of recurrence in women with triple-negative breast cancer.”
Symposium chair Melanie Palomares, M.D., M.S., medical oncologist and epidemiologist, was among the many attendees who showed interest in the work.
“At what point would you be interested in translating to human studies?” Palomares asked.
“Immediately!” responded Adams.
The CAM research grants aim to support pilot studies in integrative medicine, giving scientists data with which to seek additional grants from other funders. The Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and the Integrative Medicine Task Force plan to announce winning proposals for the second round of grant funding within the next few months.
The Integrative Medicine Task Force is co-chaired by Lily Lai, M.D., assistant professor of surgery, and Annette Mercurio, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., director of programs for the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center.
City of Hope teams recently announced findings from integrative medicine research grants awarded in 2008. In addition to work by Lynn Adams, Ph.D., and Shiuan Chen, Ph.D., with blueberries, grants went to these teams:
- “Identification of CAM Agents for the Treatment of Diabetes and Colon Cancer” — Barry Forman, M.D., Ph.D., Ruth B. and Robert K. Lanman Chair in Gene Regulation and Drug Discovery Research
- “Art Therapy Interventions with Caregivers Supporting Pediatric Patients Who Are Undergoing Bone Marrow Transplants for Cancer” — Kate Kravits, R.N., M.A., Ellen Bolotin, M.D., Ph.D., Christina Cabanillas, L.C.S.W., and Debbie Hitt, R.N.
- “Use of Preoperative Hypnosis to Reduce Postoperative Pain and Anesthesia-related Side Effects” — Michael Lew, M.D., Carlos Garberoglio, M.D., Kate Kravits, R.N., M.A., and AnnaCathy Williams, R.N.