Experts at the University of Missouri School of Medicine believe they have demonstrated that blueberry extract with radiation can increase the effectiveness of cervical cancer treatment.
An estimated 12,000 American women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. Radiation is one of the most common treatments. Radiation therapy can destroy cancer cells, but it also kills nearby healthy cells. Researchers studied in vitro human cells and were able to show that combining blueberry extract with radiation can, in fact, increase the treatment’s effectiveness.
In vitro studies are carried out with microorganisms, cells, or biological molecules outside normal conditions. This is often referred to as test-tube experiments. Any experiments conducted on plants, animals, or humans are called in vivo.
In this particular study, the experts used human cervical cancer cells to replicate clinical treatment. They divided the cell lines into four different groups: a control group, a group that received radiation only, a group that received only blueberry extract, and a group that received both radiation and blueberry extract.
Here’s what they found – the cell group that received only blueberry extract had a 25 percent decrease in cancer, but the group that received both radiation and blueberry extract experienced the biggest decline in cancer cells. It was a decrease of about 70 percent.
Blueberry extract has been labeled a “radiosensitizer.” These are non-toxic chemicals that can make cancer cells more responsive to radiation therapy. As it turns out, blueberries are expert radiosensitizers and contain flavonoids as well. Flavonoids are chemicals that may have antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
In the United States, there is a month set aside to honor the blueberry for all of its health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, July is blueberry month because the berry is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making it a superfood. Much has been written about the berry, suggesting that compounds found within may delay the impact of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers involved in the study have explained that whatever makes the blueberry extract a radiosensitizer also reduces the proliferation of cell growth, which essentially means cancer. According to the research team, it appears that the extract “inhibits the birth and promotes the death of cancer cells.”
While the discovery is exciting, animal studies will have to be carried out to confirm the results. If future studies achieve the same results, the researchers don’t anticipate a lot of barriers to adopting the new treatment approach. They are quick to remind people that blueberries are found all over the world and are relatively inexpensive.