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Chokeberry Extract can Increase Effectiveness of Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Sep 18, 2014 04:43 AM EDT

Chokeberry extract can increase the effectiveness of a drug that is used to treat pancreatic cancer, a new study suggests.

King's College Hospital and the University of Southampton scientists said that the wild berry - native to North America - can help people with pancreatic cancers.

Survival rate for pancreatic cancer is low - about four to six months. These cancers are difficult to detect early as the person may have very vague symptoms till the final stages.

The team says that chokeberry extract probably fights cancer cells by apoptosis or by programming cell death.

Chokeberry is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and several other polyphenols, which fight against the cancer cells. The berry is found in the swamps of eastern North America.

"These are very exciting results. The low doses of the extract greatly boosted the effectiveness of gemcitabine, when the two were combined. In addition, we found that lower doses of the conventional drug were needed, suggesting either that the compounds work together synergistically, or that the extract exerts a "supra-additive" effect. This could change the way we deal with hard to treat cancers in the future," Bashir Lwaleed, at the University of Southampton, said in a news release.

In the study, the researchers assessed the efficacy of the berry extract in killing a well-known line of pancereatic cells called (AsPC-1).

The team treated the cells with chemotherapy drug gemcitabine plus chokeberry extract. Two other cell lines were treated with either gemcitabine or chokeberry extract. The researchers then compared the results of the three treatments.

Scientists found that the chemotherapy drug plus extract killed cancer cells. However, the compounds in chokeberry didn't seem to affect the blood vessels feeding the cancer cells, showing that there is some other mechanism by which the compounds in the extract kill the cells.

The study shows that micronutrients in plants can be used to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Previous research has already found that chokeberry can strengthen brain cancer treatments. Other medicinal plants, such as turmeric, cinnamon, mulberries could also prevent cancer from growing.

"The promising results seen are encouraging and suggest that these polyphenols have great therapeutic potential not only for brain tumours but pancreatic cancer as well," Harcharan Rooprai, King's College Hospital, said in a news release.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Pathology.

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