Show us a person who does not like blueberries. Probably, he does not exist! Blueberries are not only delicious food, but also a healthy “superfood”, because they are full of antioxidants that offer various health benefits. What’s more, a recent study showed that blueberries help to treat cancer. What?!
By studying human cervical cancer cell lines, a team of researchers discovered that adding blueberry extract to radiation therapy can significantly improve treatment efficacy. Dr. Yujiang Fang, the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia and his colleagues reported their results in Pathology and Oncology Research.
According to statistics, about 12,820 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, and more than 4,200 women on the verge of death because of this disease.
The main method of cervical cancer treatment is radiation therapy
It uses high-energy radiation in order to destroy cancer cells. “For some cancers, such as late stage cervical cancer, radiation is a good treatment option. However, collateral damage to healthy cells always occurs,” says Dr. Yujiang Fang.
By studying what methods will be good for the treatment of cervical cancer, the researchers decided to determine whether it is possible to use blueberry extract as a radiosensitizer, a compound that makes cancer cells more vulnerable to radiation therapy.
Researchers found that blueberries contain resveratrol, which helps to sensitize prostate cancer cells to radiation therapy, and also flavonoids. “Flavonoids are chemicals that may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties,” notes Dr. Yujiang Fang.
Dr. Fang and colleagues tested blueberry extract on human cancer cell lines for their latest study. The extract was tested both alone and in combination with radiation therapy. These effects were compared with those of radiation therapy alone.
The blueberry extract
The blueberry extract led to a 25 percent reduction in cancer cells compared with radiation therapy that reduced the number of cancer cells by 20 percent. Moreover, when the blueberry extract and radiation therapy were combined, the number of human cervical cancer cells fell by around 70 percent.
Through their study, researchers have found that the blueberry extract does not only make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation, but it also reduces the abnormal cell growth that fuels cancer development. “Cancer cells avoid death by remodeling themselves. Along with reducing cell proliferation, the extract also ‘tricks’ cancer cells into dying. So it inhibits the birth and promotes the death of cancer cells,” says Dr. Yujiang Fang.
Researchers confirm the fact that further study on blueberries will be needed, but for now they can say that blueberries can be a promising treatment strategy for cervical cancer and other types of cancer.