Cranberry: is it a sauce of help to fight cancer?

18 December 2007

The dollop of red cranberry sauce on your Christmas plate may offer more than a simple fruity accompaniment to turkey, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has been told this week. 

Within the next few weeks a scientific paper should be published making the case for cranberry having the power to assist in treatment for ovarian cancer. 

Cranberries are widely consumed in North America and Europe and have long been recognized for having several biological properties which may provide human health benefits such as combating urinary tract infections and protecting against cardiovascular disease and Type Two diabetes. 

Now scientists involved in research at Rutgers University and Brown Medical School in the USA believe a basic cranberry juice extract makes platinum-based cancer drugs several times more effective against ovarian cancer. 

Researchers observed that compounds isolated from cranberries kill human ovary, brain, and prostate cancer cells in laboratory studies. 

This anticancer activity seems to come from a family of chemicals called A- type of proanthocyanidin (PACs). These "amazing chemical entities," Rutgers scientist Dr Ajay P. Singh, suggests, are unique to cranberries and are not found in other fruits. 

Natural Product Scientist Dr Singh told the RSC today: "Our research has opened up exciting possibilities for therapeutic intervention associated with platinum therapy." 

Dr Singh, who works with Dr. Nicholi Vorsa, added: "Platinum-based chemotherapy is the mainstay of treatment for ovarian cancer. However, the cancers, over time, become resistant to the drugs which lead to increased chemotherapy dosage and increased toxicity to patients." 

It is not known quite how the compounds in cranberries work. But in laboratory studies, Singh and his team tested them against platinum-resistant ovarian cancer cells. It was discovered that in the presence of proanthocyanidins extract, which came from cranberry fruits which is equivalent to glass of a commercially available, 27 percent juice cranberry drink, platinum-based chemotherapy was six times more effective against platinum resistant ovarian cancer cells. 

Until further tests are performed the scientists warn patients not to start drinking significant quantities of cranberry juice without their doctors' permission. Cranberry juice itself, scientists point out, is not a cure for cancer. 

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