With funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the authors collected ovarian cancer cells from patients experiencing platinum drug resistance. They then exposed some of the cells to a purified extract drawn from a store-bought cranberry drink that contained 27 percent pure juice. Doses varied, reaching a maximum of about one cup of juice.
All the cancer cells were subsequently treated with paraplatin chemotherapy.
The result: Cells pre-treated with the juice extract were killed at a rate that was equal to six times that of cells unexposed to cranberry components.
In addition, the juice appeared to slow both the growth and spread of some cancer cells.
It's not yet clear how cranberry juice might kill ovarian cancer cells, the researchers said, although an antioxidant unique to cranberries -- the "A-type" proanthocyanidins -- could be key.
This specific antioxidant is not present in other fruits and appears to bind with -- and block the activity of -- tumor proteins found in ovarian cancer cells, increasing their sensitivity to chemo.
Singh cautioned that it remains to be seen whether the cranberry-chemo effect can be repeated outside a lab setting. Testing in mice and rats is about to begin, followed by human trials, the scientist said.
However, even if the effect holds up, Singh stressed that cranberry compounds should not be considered any cure for cancer. They might have a role as adjunct treatment alongside existing drugs, he said.
Dr. Robert Morgan, Jr., section head of medical gynecologic oncology at the City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif., agreed that the "cranberry effect" warrants further study.
"I think this is a very fertile and promising branch of research," he said. "But one needs to make sure this is proven in clinical t
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