As published online in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, researchers discovered that a wild berry native to North America could help strengthen the effectiveness of a commonly used pancreatic cancer drug. The experimental research suggests that the effectiveness of a chemotherapy drug is bolstered when nutraceuticals are added, especially when dealing with the more difficult forms of cancer to treat such as pancreatic.
The chokeberry has been shown to kill cancer cells through a process called apoptosis. This North American berry grows in eastern wetlands, as well as swampy areas. This berry is rich in antioxidants and vitamins, which includes different types of polyphenols that experts believe clean up harmful byproducts of healthy cell activity.
Because only 5% of patients with pancreatic cancer live beyond five years after a diagnosis is made, researchers wanted the study to focus on this particular type of cancer. As part of the study, a line of pancreatic cancer cells known as AsPC-1 were cultured in a laboratory setting. These cells were then assessed as to how well they grew when treated with gemcitabine, a chemotherapy drug, compared to varying levels of chokeberry extract sold commercially and no chemotherapy drugs, as well as with drugs.
Testing the toxicity of the chokeberry extract on other normal lining cells was done and as a result, researchers found there was no effects to the highest level of 50 ug/ml used. Initially, this suggested that chokeberry extract might not prevent new blood vessels from forming, which is a process critical in the growth of cancer cells. However, after 48 hours of the berry treatment, pancreatic cells did experience some cell death.
It was also discovered that low doses of chokeberry extract significantly increased the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine. Therefore, in order for the extract to be beneficial, it would need to be combined with this drug. Although not for certain, experts believe these compounds have the ability to work together or that chokeberry extract creates a supra-addictive effect.
Researchers add that at this time, there has not been enough exploration, particularly a lack of clinical trials, into naturally occurring micronutrients found in plants, to include chokeberry. However, based on the findings of several other experimental studies, it certainly appears that chokeberry extract has the ability to induce cell death but also reduce invasiveness in brain cancer.
Along with chokeberry, other therapeutic effects are showing promise such as polyphenols associated with grapes, soy beans, green tea, turmeric, mulberries, and peanuts.
The work being conducted reinforces the concept that therapy used for intractable forms of cancer might be useful by including micronutrient supplements into treatment regimens but also, that elements found in chokeberry extract could have supra-addictive effects in conjunction with one particular chemotherapy drug used to treat pancreatic cancer.