London: A wild berry native to North America may strengthen the effectiveness of a chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat pancreatic cancer, reveals new research.
The team at King's College Hospital and University of Southampton tested the effectiveness of the extract of chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) in killing off cancer cells, probably by apoptosis (programmed cell death).
Chokeberry is a wild berry that grows on the eastern side of North America in wetlands and swamp areas.
The berry is high in vitamins and antioxidants, including various polyphenols - compounds that are believed to mop up the harmful by-products of normal cell activity.
"The promising results suggest that these polyphenols have great therapeutic potential not only for brain tumours but pancreatic cancer as well," commented Harcharan Rooprai from the King's College Hospital.
The researchers used a well-known line of pancreatic cancer cells in the laboratory to treat with a combination of gemcitabine drug and chokeberry extract.
The analysis indicated that 48 hours of chokeberry extract treatment of pancreatic cancer cells induced cell death at 1 ug/ml.
The toxicity of chokeberry extract on normal blood vessel lining cells was tested and found to have no effects up to the highest levels used (50 ug/ml).
It suggests that the cell death effect is happening in a way other than through preventing new blood vessel formation (anti-angiogenesis), a process that is important in cancer cell growth.
"These are very exciting results. This could change the way we deal with hard to treat cancers in the future," said Bashir Lwaleed from the University of Southampton.
"Adding nutraceuticals to chemotherapy cycles may improve the effectiveness of conventional drugs, particularly in hard to treat cancers, such as pancreatic cancer," researchers concluded.
The study was published online in the Journal of Clinical Pathology.