JUN 22, 2017 11:36 AM PDT

Plant-Based Compounds 'Starve' Prostate Cancer Cells

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Scientists report that compounds found in turmeric, red grapes, and apple peels could “starve” prostate cancer cells and shrink the tumors.

Image credit: Pixabay.com

The study was prompted by the idea that plant-based compounds can thwart the growth and progression of cancer cells. In particular, some recent studies found that compound in tree nuts, tomatoes, and strawberries have the capacity to reduce cancer growth in the lab.

For this study, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin wanted to screen plant-based compounds for anticancer effects against prostate cancer - the second most common cancer among American men. Out of the 142 compounds that the team screened, they found three compounds with the highest anticancer effects. This included curcumin (found in the orange-yellow turmeric root), ursolic acid (found in apple peel), and resveratrol (found in red grapes and berries).

The team tested the compounds, alone and in combination, on prostate cancer cells from mice and humans. They observed that all possible combinations showed a reduction in prostate tumor size and weight. Further analysis revealed that the combination of the three compounds altered the tumor cells’ metabolism of glutamine, an amino acid that fuels prostate cancer growth. Specifically, the compounds appear to prevent prostate cancer cells from taking in glutamine as a nutrient, which would “starve” the cancer cells to death.

But as is the case with previous studies that link plant-based compounds to cancer-fighting potential, the dose studied in the lab is much higher than what’s present in a normal diet. Thus, the results have to be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Nevertheless, the findings mark a starting point for further investigation into more natural therapies for prostate cancer. “These nutrients have potential anti-cancer properties and are readily available. We only need to increase concentration beyond levels found in a healthy diet for an effect on prostate cancer cells,” said Stefano Tiziani, the study’s senior author.

Of note, all three compounds have been previously linked as health treatments and anticancer agents in some form. Curcumin, for example, has a long history in Asian medicine as a treatment for a variety of maladies. Researchers also found that the compound has antioxidant qualities that reduce inflammation, which is a key process in cancer. Similarly, resveratrol is also a potent antioxidant that’s been linked to raising good cholesterol and lowering heart disease.

Additional source: MNT

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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