Pomegranates and Cancer

Pomegranates could become key in breast cancer treatment


HAIFA, Israel, Aug 21, 2001 (United Press International via COMTEX) –

Pomegranates could become key in breast cancer treatment and estrogen replacement therapy, according to studies by Israeli researchers.


“Pomegranates seem to replace the estrogen often prescribed to protect postmenopausal women against heart disease and osteoporosis, while selectively destroying estrogen-dependent cancer cells,” said Dr. Ephraim Lansky, scientific director of Rimonest Ltd. in Israel, and lead researcher in two studies at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.


According to the researchers, pomegranate-seed oil triggers apoptosis — a self-destruct mechanism — in breast cancer cells. Also, pomegranate juice appears to destroy estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells, while leaving normal breast cells unaffected.


Estrogen is a hormone prescribed to protect postmenopausal women against osteoporosis. Women with estrogen-dependent breast cancer are advised not to continue estrogen-replacement therapy during cancer treatment.


In the first study, laboratory-grown breast cancer cells were treated for three days with pomegranate seed oil. The researchers observed apoptosis in 37 percent to 56 percent of the cancer cells, depending on the dose of oil applied.


In the second study, both normal and cancerous breast cells were exposed to pomegranate wine and pomegranate peel extracts, which contain polyphenols (powerful antioxidants). The vast majority of the normal cells remained unaffected by the two pomegranate derivatives. More than 75 percent of the estrogen-dependent cancer cells, and approximately half of the non-estrogen dependent cancer cells, were destroyed by exposure to these same pomegranate products.


Dr. Lajos Pusztai, an assistant professor of medicine with the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston, said the Israeli findings provide “a potential new avenue to develop anticancer drugs from a natural compound that may be selective for cancerous cells.”


“The impact of this observation on the care of patients with breast cancer is currently limited,” Pusztai told United Press International. “Pomegranate-seed oil extract would need to be formally tested for antitumor activity in patients before it can judged beneficial and clinically useful.”


(Reported by UPI Science Correspondent Bruce Sylvester from West Palm Beach, Fla.)




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