One of the most dreaded consequences of cancer is when the disease metastasizes — meaning it spreads from the primary site where it started to other parts of the body. But University of California, Riverside (UCR) scientists have announced what could be a major breakthrough in halting metastasis. They’ve discovered components in pomegranate juice that inhibit the movement of cancer cells and weaken the attraction of malignant cells to a chemical signal that has been shown to promote metastasis.
Scientists have long known that when cancerous cells are resistant to testosterone, that’s an indicator those cells have a strong potential to metastasize. Not only did the research team find pomegranate juice killed many cancer tumor cells — the pomegranate juice treatment also increased cell adhesion and decreased cell migration in those cancer cells that had not died.
Next the scientists analyzed the pomegranate juice to figure out which specific ingredients produced the molecular impact on cell adhesion and migration in metastatic prostate cancer cells. Dr. Martins-Green, graduate student Lei Wang and undergraduate student Jeffrey Ho discovered the answer: phenylpropanoids, hydrobenzoic acids, flavones and conjugated fatty acids found in the fruit.
“This is particularly exciting because we can now modify these naturally occurring components of the juice to improve their functions and make them more effective in preventing prostate cancer metastasis,” Dr. Martins-Green said in a media statement.”Because the genes and proteins involved in movement of prostate cancer cells are essentially the same as those involved in movement of other types of cancer cells, the same modified components of the juice could have a much broader impact in cancer treatment.”
The idea that pomegranate phytochemicals have an anti-cancer effect isn’t new. In fact, evidence has been steadily accumulating over the past few years that along with other health benefits (such as soothing inflammation in the body and potentially reducing the risk of heart disease) pomegranates can prevent and/or treat cancer.