Nature's bounty could be next source of cancer-fighting therapies

May 17, 2015 | by Tami Dennis

Cancer treatments have improved over the years, but one potential source of treatments and cures remains largely untapped: nature.

cancer therapies and nature Cancer researchers look to nature's bounty, such as pomegranates, for new, less toxic cancer therapies.

Blueberries, cinnamon, xinfeng, grape seed (and skin) extract, mushrooms, barberry and pomegranates all contain compounds with the potential to treat or prevent cancer.

Scientists at City of Hope have found tantalizing evidence of this potential and are committed to exploring it to the fullest. They’re researching, testing and developing new therapies made from nature’s bounty — vegetables, fruits and herbs most people take for granted.

A $2.5 million gift from the Panda Charitable Foundation has helped launch City of Hope’s Natural Therapies Program. The funds will be used to encourage researchers to develop products to combat cancer using powerful compounds already present in foods and herbs considered part of a healthy diet. By exploring the power of nature, the Natural Therapies Program hopes to identify treatments that will help heal patients more effectively than current treatments, with fewer side effects.

The Panda Charitable Foundation gift will specifically expedite the testing of promising novel therapies from three researchers, who are investigating natural products’ abilities to treat cancer.

John Yim, M.D., associate professor and surgeon in City of Hope’s Division of Surgical Oncology, is studying the effects of the compound baicalein, found in thyme and the Chinese herb huang qin. The compound could have the potential to shrink tumors in breast cancer and prolong the survival of breast cancer patients when used in conjunction with chemotherapy.

David Horne, Ph.D., vice provost and associate director of Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, is researching the anti-cancer potential of a compound known as ETP, which is produced by fungi. Horne and his team redesigned the compound to formulate an extremely potent new drug candidate.

Shiuan Chen, Ph.D., professor and chair in City of Hope's Department of Cancer Biology, has been exploring the potential of compounds in certain foods, including blueberries and mushrooms, to fight prostate and breast cancer. He is currently researching how the foods themselves might improve outcomes for treatment-resistant breast cancer.

“Panda is honored and humbled to support City of Hope’s Natural Therapies Program, as it directly reflects Panda’s spirit of giving. City of Hope and its programs positively impact the lives of patients and their families by being a source for renewed possibilities and hope,” said Peggy Cherng, co-CEO of the Panda Restaurant Group.

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Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

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