Blood cancers like leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma caused about 54,000 deaths in 2006 alone, making these cancers the fourth leading deadly cancer in the US. The search for cure for these cancers has lead scientists to look at natural products from fruits and vegetables that may potentially prevent or treat these deadly diseases.
The recent discovery by the researchers from the University of Kentucky showed that natural extract from grape seeds make laboratory leukemia cells commit suicide in the process they call “apoptosis”. Grape seed extract have already been reported to have an effect on laboratory cancer cells inclduing breast, skin, lung, colon and prostate cancer cells. This is the first time to test this grape extract on hematological cancers.
The research came about when Dr. Xianglin Shi, a professor in the Graduate Center for Toxicology at the University of Kentucky and his colleagues discovered that apple peel extract contains proanthocyanidins that helps prevent cancer development. These compounds have antioxidant activity and can cause cancer cells to commit suicide. These findings plus previous reports on the effects of grape seed extracts breast tumors in rats and skin tumors inspired Shi and colleagues to look at the effects of grape seed extracts on leukemia cells. Their research showed that 76% of the laboratory leukemia cells died after being exposed to the grape seed extract for 24 hours. They found that the extract activates JNK, a protein that triggers the cell to commit suicide. What makes it more interesting is that the extract only attacks the cancer cells and leaves the normal cells alone. They still, however, cannot explain the mechanisms behind the anti-cancer properties of grade seed extracts.
“These results could have implications for the incorporation of agents such as grape seed extract into prevention or treatment of hematological malignancies and possibly other cancers,” said Dr. Shi. He adds, however, that the research is not far enough along to suggest that people should eat grapes, grape seeds, or grape skin in excess to stave off cancer. “This is very promising research, but it is too early to say this is chemo-protective.”
The findings are published in the January issue of Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Even if the anti-cancer properties of grape seeds still have to be researched further, there is no doubt as to the benefits of eating fresh fruit such as grapes. Previous studies have shown that grapes have many other health benefits. Red grapes, for example, contain the antioxidants resveratrol, melatonin, and flavonoids which explains the cardioprotective properties of red wine.
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