Possessing a navy hue and a powerful punch, the blueberry is one of the most potent and popular disease fighters available. Now, City of Hope researchers have found another weapon to add to the blueberry’s arsenal of disease-fighting properties: the ability to control tumor growth, decrease metastasis and induce cell death in triple-negative breast cancer cells.
|Lynn Adams and Shiuan Chen study the cancer-fighting potential of natural products. (Photo by Larry Kiang)|
Their study was published in the May 1 edition of Cancer Research.
Triple-negative breast cancer cells are a specific subtype of cancer that lack estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor 2 receptors. Since most standard, successful breast cancer therapies target one or more of these receptors, these cancers are difficult to treat. They account for about 15 percent of all breast cancers and generally carry a poorer prognosis compared to other subtypes.
Shiuan Chen, Ph.D., director of City of Hope’s Division of Tumor Cell Biology and the paper’s senior author, noted that the blueberry might succeed where current drugs struggle. “We observed that blueberries help fight triple-negative breast cancers by suppressing pathways critical to tumor development and migration,” he said.
Chen, researcher Lynn S. Adams, Ph.D., and their colleagues applied blueberry extracts to triple-negative breast cancer cell cultures and found that the extract not only inhibits proliferation and mobility in the cells, but also led to apoptosis, or cell death, at more than twice the rate seen in untreated cells.
The team then tested blueberry extract’s effectiveness in laboratory animal models. The researchers found that the total weight of tumors was 70 percent lower among the animals treated with blueberry extract than the tumor weight in the control group. The cancers also exhibited significantly lower proliferation and higher apoptosis activity.
“These results are promising because they demonstrated that the anticarcinogenic compounds are effectively absorbed when consumed orally and still have an impact on the cancer cells, and the amount given is equivalent to a 130-pound adult consuming about four ounces daily,” Chen said. “Our team is hopeful that future research will identify the specific compounds in the fruit responsible for this action, as well as further investigating blueberries’ potential to slow down the progression and spread of this difficult form of breast cancer.”
Chen and his colleagues are planning a human clinical trial to test blueberries’ effect on breast cancer, in addition to research on the anticancer properties of other fruits and vegetables.
Other researchers involved in this study include Sheryl Phung, M.S., and Natalie Yee, M.S., from City of Hope, and Liya Li, Ph.D., and Navindra P. Seeram, Ph.D., from the University of Rhode Island. The National Institutes of Health and City of Hope’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research Grant program funded the research.