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Pomegranates show promise against breast cancer

Wednesday January 6th, 2010

The pomegranate may contain a chemical that could help treat breast cancer, researchers reported yesterday.

Scientists have found evidence that a compound derived from pomegranates may act against hormone-dependent breast cancer.

This fruit contains ellagitannins, which are converted by the body into compounds that may halt the action of a key breast cancer enzyme called aromatase.

Researcher Dr Shiuan Chen of the City of Hope Helford Clinical Research Hospital in California, USA, said: "We were surprised by our findings.

"We previously found other fruits, such as grapes, to be capable of the inhibition of aromatase. But, phytochemicals in pomegranates and in grapes are different."

The researchers investigated the anti-aromatase activity of ellagitannins derived from pomegranates.

The work is published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

The team concludes: "These studies suggest that pomegranate ellagitannin-derived compounds have potential for the prevention of oestrogen-responsive breast cancers."

Commenting on the work, Dr Gary Stoner of Ohio State University, USA, says that more studies are needed.

He said the conclusions came from laboratory research - and did not prove the same effects would be achieved by eating more pomegranates.

"This is an in vitro study in which relatively high levels of ellagitannin compounds were required to demonstrate an anti-proliferative effect on cultured breast cancer cells," he said.

"It's not clear that these levels could be achieved in animals or in humans because the ellagitannins are not well absorbed into blood when provided in the diet," he added, but people "might consider consuming more pomegranates to protect against cancer development".

* In a second report yesterday, British researchers said they had found a way of diagnosing breast and bowel cancer in the so-called "junk DNA" - genes which were thought to serve no purpose.

The findings are reported in the journal Genomics.

Researcher Dr Cristina Tufarelli, of Nottingham University, said: "The next step is to find out if the switching on of these genes is driving cancer or if they are a result of the cancer. Even if they are innocent bystanders of cancer they could be useful biomarkers helping us to diagnose or monitor the disease.

"If this 'junk DNA' does turn out to play a role in cancer then we could be at the tip of the iceberg in understanding a completely new mechanism behind the disease."

Adams, L. S. et al. Pomegranate Ellagitannin-Derived Compounds Exhibit Antiproliferative and Antiaromatase Activity in Breast Cancer Cells In vitro. Cancer Prevention Research, Volume 3, January 2010, pp. 108-13.

Cruckshank, H.A., Tufarelli, C., Isolation of cancer-specific chimeric transcripts induced by the hypomethylation of the LINE-1 antisense promoter Genomics (2009)

Tags: Cancer | Diet & Food | North America | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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