Can pomegranate juice really prevent cancer?

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Pomegranate juice has been hyped to do many things: fight cancer, increase fertility, boost sex drive, reduce erectile dysfunction, stave off heart disease, even guard against Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have identified components in pomegranate juice that both inhibit the movement of cancer cells and weaken their attraction to a chemical signal that promotes the metastasis of prostate cancer to the bone. The research could lead to new therapies for preventing cancer metastasis.

Pomegranate and pomegranate juice Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have identified components in pomegranate juice that both inhibit the movement of cancer cells and weaken their attraction to a chemical signal that promotes the metastasis of prostate cancer to the bone.

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Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men in the United States. To date, there is no cure for it. If prostate cancer recurs after treatments of surgery and/or radiation, usually the next treatment is the suppression of the male hormone testosterone, which inhibits the growth of the cancer cells because they need this hormone to grow. But over time, the cancer develops ways to resist hormone suppression therapies, becomes very aggressive, and metastasizes to the bone marrow, lungs, and lymph nodes, usually resulting in the patient’s death.

The Martins-Green lab applied pomegranate juice on laboratory-cultured prostate cancer cells that were resistant to testosterone (the more resistant a cancer cell is to testosterone, the more prone it is to metastasizing).

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The researchers identified the following active groups of ingredients in pomegranate juice that had a molecular impact on cell adhesion and migration in metastatic prostate cancer cells: phenylpropanoids, hydrobenzoic acids, flavones and conjugated fatty acids.

“Having identified them, we can now modify cancer-inhibiting components in pomegranate juice to improve their functions and make them more effective in preventing prostate cancer metastasis, leading to more effective drug therapies,” Martins-Green said. “Because the genes and proteins involved in the movement of prostate cancer cells are essentially the same as those involved in the movement of other types of cancer cells, the same modified components of the juice could have a much broader impact in cancer treatment.”

One of the most dreaded consequences of cancer is when the disease metastasizes — meaning it spreads from the primary site where it started to other parts of the body.

“This is particularly exciting because we can now modify these naturally occurring components of the juice to improve their functions and make them more effective in preventing prostate cancer metastasis,” Dr. Martins-Green said in a media statement.”Because the genes and proteins involved in movement of prostate cancer cells are essentially the same as those involved in movement of other types of cancer cells, the same modified components of the juice could have a much broader impact in cancer treatment.”

However, despite all the science showing pomegranate juice could have anti-cancer effects, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has come down hard on claims about those potential benefits.

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Normally, men have a low level of PSA in their blood, but prostate cancer (as well as relatively benign conditions like benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis) can increase the levels substantially. Researchers frequently track the increase in PSA as an indicator of how quickly a cancer may be growing.

“A very long doubling time is a good thing”, explained Christopher Amling, MD, a spokesman for the American Urological Association. “A very rapid doubling time is a surrogate marker for mestatizing. The shorter the doubling time, the more rapidly the cancer is growing”.

In this study, researchers studied men who had been treated for prostate cancer with either surgery or radiation and monitored the “success” of the treatment by watching how long it took for their PSA’s to double. They studied 48 men who had an average “doubling time” of 15 months at the beginning of the study. The men were given 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily.

 

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