According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Patholow, chokeberries, wild berries native to North America, may have a role in boosting cancer therapy.
Scientists suggest chokeberries (Aronia) could work in combination with conventional drugs to kill more cancer cells.
However, the UK research is at an early stage, with experiments carried out only on cancer cells in laboratories.
Cancer Research UK says much more work is needed to test the effectiveness of berries, particularly in human trials.
Researchers from the University of Southampton and King’s College Hospital, London, tested a berry extract on pancreatic cancer samples.
Pancreatic cancer is particularly hard to treat and has an average survival period of just six months after diagnosis.
Chokeberries may have a role in boosting cancer therapy
The study found that when the berry extract was used, together with a conventional chemotherapy drug called gemcitabine, more cancer cells died than when the drug was used alone.
However, the scientists say the chokeberry had no effect on normal body cells tested in this way.
They believe compounds known as polyphenols in the berries may reduce the number of harmful cells.
The research team previously carried out similar early work on brain cancer cells.
Chokeberries grow on the eastern side of North America in wetlands and swamp areas.
Bashir Lwaleed, a senior lecturer at Southampton University, who carried out the study, said: “We need to do more research to understand how the chemotherapy and berry work together.
“At the moment we cannot suggest people go out and buy supplements – we are still at the experimental level.”
The study was funded by the Malaysian ministry of higher education and health charity Have a Chance Inc in the USA.
British researchers have found that an experimental “Trojan-horse” cancer therapy has completely eliminated prostate cancer in experiments on mice.
The team hid cancer killing viruses inside the immune system in order to sneak them into a tumor.
Once inside, a study in the journal Cancer Research showed, tens of thousands of viruses were released to kill the cancerous cells.
Experts labeled the study “exciting,” but human tests are still needed.
Using viruses to destroy rapidly growing tumors is an emerging field in cancer therapy, however one of the challenges is getting the viruses deep inside the tumor where they can do the damage.
“There’s a problem with getting enough virus into the tumor,” said Prof. Claire Lewis from the University of Sheffield.
She leads a team which uses white blood cells as “Trojan horses” to deliver the viral punch.
British researchers have found that an experimental Trojan-horse cancer therapy has completely eliminated prostate cancer in experiments on mice
After chemotherapy or radiotherapy is used to treat cancer, there is damage to the tissue. This causes a surge in white blood cells, which swamp the area to help repair the damage.
“We’re surfing that wave to get as many white blood cells to deliver tumor-busting viruses into the heart of a tumor,” said Prof. Claire Lewis.
Her team takes blood samples and extract macrophages, a part of the immune system which normally attacks foreign invaders. These are mixed with a virus which, just like HIV, avoids being attacked and instead becomes a passenger in the white blood cell.
In the study, the mice were injected with the white blood cells two days after a course of chemotherapy ended.
At this stage each white blood cell contained just a couple of viruses. However, once the macrophages enter the tumor the virus can replicate. After about 12 hours the white blood cells burst and eject up to 10,000 viruses each – which go on to infect, and kill, the cancerous cells.
At the end of the 40-day study, all the mice who were given the Trojan treatment were still alive and had no signs of tumors.
By comparison, mice given other treatments died and their cancer had spread.
Prof. Claire Lewis said: “It completely eradicates the tumor and stops it growing back.”
She said it was a “ground-breaking” concept, but cautioned that many remarkable advances in treating mice failed to have any effect in people.
She hopes to begin human trials next year.
Angela Zhang’s Research Paper Title is: Design of Image-guided, Photo-thermal Controlled Drug Releasing Multifunctional Nanosystem for the Treatment of Cancer Stem Cells
Angela Zhang received a $100,000 award from Siemens Foundation for her work on finding possible ways of curing cancer patients. She is a student of: Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, California
MENTOR: Dr. Zhen Cheng, Stanford University
“I was surprised by the survival rate of patients who had undergone current cancer therapy.”
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are responsible for initiating and driving tumor growth yet are often resistant to current cancer therapies. In her research, Angela Zhang aimed to design a CSC-targeted, gold and iron oxide-based nanoparticle with a potential to eradicate these cells through a controlled delivery of the drug salinomycin to the site of the tumor. The multifunctional nanoparticle combines therapy and imaging into a single platform, with the gold and iron-oxide components allowing for both MRI and Photoacoustic imaging. This nanosystem could potentially help overcome cancer resistance, minimize undesirable side effects, and allow for real-time monitoring of treatment efficacy.
Angela, a senior, is interested in nanomedicine and molecular imaging because they allow her “to transform my interests in physics, chemistry, and biology into solutions for current health problems.” She won the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2011 Grand Award and the ISEF 2010 Grand Award (both for medicine and health science), and a trip to attend the Taiwan International Science Fair awarded by the National Taiwan Science Education Center. Angela planned and executed a fundraiser that raised over $5,000 a year for the Monta Vista Interact International Night and has participated in the Jade Ribbon Youth Council to raise awareness about Hepatitis B. She plays golf and the piano and would like to major in chemical or biomedical engineering or physics. She is a 2010 Siemens Competition Regional Finalist who put in 1,000 hours on her current project. Angela hopes to become a research professor.
The second place in the Siemens Foundation competition was won by:
Brian Kim’s research paper is in the Mathematics field
Stuyvesant High School, New York, New York
Research Paper Title: Packing and Covering with Centrally Symmetric Disks – Mathematics
MENTOR: Professor Dan P. Ismailescu, Hofstra University
“Mathematics is ubiquitous: car-builders use the heat flow equation to calculate how engine parts will respond to heat, while bridge-builders calculate the curve that will ideally spread the downward force of a heavy truck.”
For a millennia, people have been interested in how we can efficiently pack more objects into an area. Brian Kim examined packing and covering geometric shapes, a topic that he says “could be understood and appreciated with a basic geometry background, but required power tools, particularly vectors, with which to make new ground.” He was attracted to the idea of arranging shapes in space because this problem has been studied extensively by mathematicians. “The topic is simple yet at the same time extremely complex.”
Brian first recognized his passion for math after joining his school’s math team. “There are no ‘textbook problems’ or solutions in math team, as ingenuity and cleverness are constant necessities.” In his spare time, the high school senior enjoys running, golf, handball and playing the guitar, piano and trombone. He would like to major in applied mathematics or computer science and dreams of becoming a professor of mathematics at MIT.
Find out more about the research papers on the Siemens Foundation website.