Combining blueberry extract with radiation can improve the success of cervical cancer treatment
Radiation therapy involves high-energy X-rays and other particles, such as gamma rays, to destroy cancer
cells, Yujiang Fang, a visiting professor at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study, explained. Radiation is a good treatment option for some cancers, such as late-stage cervical cancer
. That being said, it always causes collateral damage to healthy cells. “Based on previous research, we studied blueberry extract to verify it could be used as a radio-sensitizer,” Fang said.
A radio-sensitizer is a non-toxic chemical that improves the effectiveness of radiation therapy by making cancer
cells more responsive to the therapy. A previous study by Fang and his team found that resveratrol, a compound found in red grapes, could be used as a radio-sensitizer for prostate cancer
. Blueberries are another food that contain this compound. “In addition to resveratrol, blueberries also contain flavonoids,” Fang said. “Flavonoids are chemicals that may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.”
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To reach their findings, Fang’s team divided a group of people with cervical cancer
into three groups: One received only radiation therapy, another received only blueberry extract and the last received radiation therapy and blueberry extract. The team found that just radiation reduced cancer cells by 20%, while just blueberry extract reduced cancer cells by 25%. However, the group that combined the two saw an impressive 70% reduction in cancer cells!
“Cancer cells avoid death by remodelling themselves,” Fang said. “Along with reducing cell proliferation, the extract also ‘tricks’ cancer cells into dying. So, it inhibits the birth and promotes the death of cancer cells.”
Approximately 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year
Considering the number of cervical cancer cases around the world each year, these new findings provide hope. Not only are blueberries very common and found all around the world, but also inexpensive and readily accessible, as Fang pointed out.
He concluded that as a natural treatment option for boosting the effectiveness of existing cervical cancer therapies, he feels blueberries would be enthusiastically accepted.