Israeli researchers report that the pomegranate, a fruit mainly grown in hot dry regions, could possibly be helpful in combatting breast cancer.
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology researchers said their studies show that pomegranate juice can be toxic to most estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells, while leaving normal breast cells largely unaffected.
"Pomegranates seem to replace the estrogen often prescribed to protect postmenopausal women against heart disease and osteoporosis, while selectively destroying estrogen-dependent cancer cells," said Dr. Ephraim Lansky, who headed the studies.
In one study, Lansky said laboratory-grown breast cancer cells were treated for three days with pomegranate seed oil. The researchers observed apoptosis in 37 to 56 percent of the cancer cells, depending on the dose of oil applied.
In a second study, both normal and cancerous breast cells were exposed to pomegranate wine and pomegranate peel extracts, which contain polyphenols (powerful antioxidants). The vast majority of the normal cells remained unaffected by the two pomegranate derivatives. But more than 75 percent of the estrogen-dependent cancer cells, and approximately half of the non-estrogen dependent cancer cells were destroyed by exposure to these same pomegranate products.
Dr. Lajos Pusztai, an assistant professor who studies breast cancer at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said Lansky's study "provides a potential new avenue to develop anti-cancer drugs from a natural compound."