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Wouldn't it be great if beating breast cancer was as simple as making sure you had a V-8?
Dr. Madhwa Raj of the Research Professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans and its Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center hasn't discovered a vegetable cocktail that kills cancer, but he and his colleagues may have discovered six plant chemicals that someday will.
Stopping the Cycle of Remission and Relapse
If you or someone you know and love has had breast cancer, chances are you have seen a discouraging progression of events. After the cancer is diagnosed, the first round of treatment, whether it's surgery or radiation or chemotherapy or a combination of them, works well, and the result is remission. Then a few years later the cancer comes back. The doctors find a different combination of surgery or radiation or chemotherapy that works, and the cancer goes into remission again. But a few years after that the cancer comes back yet again, and eventually doctors run out of ways to treat it.
The Basic Problem of Fighting Breast Cancer
The reason breast cancer resists treatment, researchers believe, is that a small number of stem cells in the breast become cancerous. Stem cells, as you probably know, are cells with the ability to become any kind of tissue in the body. Your body makes a tremendous number of blood cells from stem cells throughout your life. Your body, it's no surprise, makes fat cells from stem cells, and it also uses stem cells to repair your bones, your heart, and even your brain, although in small numbers, very slowly. When stem cells become breast cancer cells, however, the disease keeps coming back no matter what treatments the doctors throw at it.
The key to beating cancer may be finding a way to keep stem cells from creating cancer cells, without keeping stem cells from forming the blood and bone and heart and other tissues your body needs to repair itself. If there were some way to "turn off" just these stem cells, then cancer would not have the capacity to become resistant to multiple drugs. Dr. Raj and his collaborators may have found that way.
Six Potent Phytochemicals for Fighting Breast Cancer
The Louisiana State University and Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center researchers identified six plant chemicals that together showed profound effects on breast cancer cells isolated into the test tube. Individually, the six chemicals had little or not effect on cancer, but together they "flipped a switch" that triggered a process called apoptosis, or cellular suicide, in 100% of the cancer sample. The six chemicals were:
- C-phycocyanin from spirulina,
- Curcumin, the main antioxidant in the curry powder spice turmeric,
- Indo-3-carbinol, which is found in plants in the cabbage family,
- Isoflavones, estrogen-like compounds found in soybeans.
- Quercetin, an antioxidant that is found in most plant foods, but especially in apples (more in the peel than in the flesh), onions, and grapefruit, and
- Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red grapes but usually concentrated from a plant called Chinese knotweed when it is used in supplements.