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Grape seed extract goes after aggressive cancer cells

Grape seed extract goes after aggressive cancer cells

Tuesday, January 22, 2013. An article published online on December 22, 2012 in the journal Cancer Letters reveals a potent effect for grape seed extract against colorectal cancer in experiments involving cultured cancer cells. The findings indicate a beneficial effect for grape seed extract that increases with higher stage cancer.

Molly Derry of the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Aurora and her associates tested the effect of grape seed extract in colorectal cancer cell lines in various stages of disease. They observed an increase in several of grape seed extract's anticancer mechanisms in association with increasing cancer stage. The effect is in sharp contrast with that of chemotherapy, which becomes less potent in association with increased metastatic potential. No adverse effects from the compound occurred in healthy cells.

"We've known for quite a while that the bioactive compounds in grape seed extract selectively target many types of cancer cells," stated Derry, who is a doctoral candidate in University of Colorado Cancer Center researcher Rajesh Agarwal, PhD's laboratory. "This study shows that many of the same mutations that allow colorectal cancer cells to metastasize and survive traditional therapies make them especially sensitive to treatment with grape seed extract."

"It required less than half the concentration of grape seed extract to suppress cell growth and kill 50 percent of stage IV cells than it did to achieve similar results in the stage II cells," she remarked. "A colorectal cancer cell can have upwards of 11,000 genetic mutations – differences from the DNA in healthy cells. Traditional chemotherapies may only target a specific mutation and as cancer progresses more mutations occur. These changes can result in cancer that is resistant to chemotherapy. In contrast, the many bioactive compounds of grape seed extract are able to target multiple mutations. The more mutations a cancer presents, the more effective grape seed extract is in targeting them."

The discovery is of significance in view of the increased prevalence of colorectal cancer in Western societies, coupled with the fact that 60 percent of those diagnosed are at an advanced stage of cancer. "Finding a way to selectively target advanced colorectal cancer cells could have major clinical importance," Derry noted.

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Plant compounds prevent cancer metastasis

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The spread of cancer to organs other than the one in which the disease originated is the source of most cancer mortality. In a review article published online on June 13, 2012 in the journal Cancer and Metastasis Reviews, Washington State University professor Gary G. Meadows reports that compounds found in various plants can help prevent metastasis and reduce the risk of death from one of the world's most prolific killers. "We're always looking for a magic bullet," stated Dr Meadows, who is the associate dean for graduate education and scholarship at WSU's College of Pharmacy. "Well, there are lots of magic bullets out there in what we eat and associated with our lifestyle. We just need to take advantage of those. And they can work together."

The review reveals that vitamin D, ginseng, lycopene, curcumin, pomegranate, fish oil and more influence gene expression in breast, colorectal, lung, prostate, skin and other cancers. The compounds work against cancer metastasis epigenetically, meaning that they switch on metastasis suppressor genes. "So these epigenetic mechanisms are influenced by what you eat," Dr Meadows explained. "That may also be related to how the metastasis suppressor genes are being regulated. That's a very new area of research that has largely not been very well explored in terms of diet and nutrition."

"There's likely to be more compounds out there, more constituents, that people haven't even evaluated yet," he added.

"We've kind of focused on the cancer for a long time," Dr Meadows remarked. "More recently we've started to focus on the cancer in its environment. And the environment, your whole body as an environment, is really important in whether or not that cancer will spread."

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