MADISON - The juice of the pomegranate, say researchers at Universityof Wisconsin Medical School, shows major promise to combat prostatecancer - the most common invasive cancer and the second-leading causeof cancer death in American men.
With more than 230,000 new cases of prostate cancer expected to bediagnosed this year alone in the U.S. and the outlook poor for patientswith metastatic disease, researchers are looking for new strategies tocombat the disease. Earlier research at Wisconsin and elsewhere hasshown that the pomegranate, a fruit native to the Middle East, is richin anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and is effective againsttumors in mouse skin. In fact, pomegranate juice has higheranti-oxidant activity than do red wine and green tea, both of whichappear promising as anti-cancer agents.
The UW research team aimed to find out if the extract frompomegranates would not only kill existing cancer, but help preventcancer from starting or progressing. Using human prostate cancer cells,the team first evaluated the fruit extract's effect, at various doses,on those cells cultured in laboratory dishes. They found a"dose-dependent" effect - in other words, the higher the dose ofpomegranate extract the cells received, the more cells died.
The research team then progressed to tests in mice that hadbeen injected with prostate cancer cells from humans and developedmalignancies. The 24 mice were randomly divided into three groups. Thecontrol group received normal drinking water, while the animals in thesecond and third groups had their drinking water supplemented with .1percent and .2 percent pomegranate extract respectively. The doses forthe mice were chosen to parallel how much pomegranate juice a typicalhealthy human might be willing to eat or drink daily.
The results were dramatic: the mice receiving the higherconcentration of pomegranate extract showed significant slowing oftheir cancer progression and a decrease in the levels ofprostate-specific antigen (PSA), a marker used to indicate the presenceof prostate cancer in humans. The animals that received only water hadtumors that grew much faster than those in the animals treated withpomegranate extract.
"Our study - while early -- adds to growing evidence thatpomegranates contain very powerful agents against cancer, particularlyprostate cancer," says lead author Dr. Hasan Mukhtar, professor ofdermatology in the UW Medical School. "There is good reason now to testthis fruit in humans - both for cancer prevention and for treatment."
The next step in the evaluation of pomegranates for cancerprevention and treatment is to conduct tests in humans, according toMukhtar.
The other members of the research team are Arshi Malik, FarrukhAfaq, Vaquar Adhami, Deeba Syed and Sami Sarfaraz, all researchscientists in the department of dermatology. The Wisconsin research wasfunded by the National Institutes of Health.
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