Eating Apples and Curry May Starve Prostate Cancer Cells

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Munch on an apple or dine on some chicken curry and you may be limiting your chances of developing prostate cancer, says a new study.

Assessing how certain nutrients interact with cancer cells, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin discovered that several key ingredients — ursolic acid, curcumin and resveratrol — were adept at limiting the growth of prostate cancer cells.

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A chemical that’s found in apple peels and rosemary, ursolic acid, when combined with resveratrol, prevented cancer cells from growing by limiting their ability to consume energy. The study authors discovered cancer-limiting effects with curcumin, which is found in the “wonder spice” turmeric, as well.

“These nutrients have potential anti-cancer properties and are readily available,” said corresponding author Stefano Tiziani, assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Dell Pediatric Research Institute at University of Texas at Austin.

“We only need to increase concentration beyond levels found in a healthy diet for an effect on prostate cancer cells,” added Tiziani.

Limiting a Deadly Scourge

Prostate cancer is the second-most common form of cancer to affect men nationally, with more than 161,000 cases reported every year, according to the American Cancer Society. That means about one in every seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.

The new study, which sheds light on a growing body of research focusing on naturally occurring compounds, took a wide-glance view of potential plant-based treatments. The researchers analyzed multiple chemicals simultaneously instead of investigating a lone agent, as most studies do.

The researchers assessed the impact of 142 plant-based compounds “on mouse and human cell lines to see which inhibited prostate cancer cell growth when administered alone or in combination with another nutrient,” according to the study.

Related: Scientists Reveal New Prostate Cancer Vaccine

By testing multiple agents at the same time, the researchers believe they can more easily narrow down the list of treatment targets, including combination chemicals.

“After screening a natural compound library, we developed an unbiased look at combinations of nutrients that have a better effect on prostate cancer than existing drugs,” said Tiziani. 

Importantly, the natural ingredients were found to reduce harm without unintended side effects. “The beauty of this study is that we were able to inhibit tumor growth in mice without toxicity,” explained Tiziani.

One of the most important findings that the researchers uncovered was how chemical combinations could limit glutamine metabolism in cancer cells, which need the substance to survive. Specifically, the researchers found that combining ursolic acid with resveratrol or curcumen made the biggest impact.

Related: Task Force Dials Back on Prostate Screening Recommendations

These “phytochemical combinations” may also limit the growth of other cancer cells, suggest the study authors, who urge additional research based on their new approach.

Some health agencies believe that revising one’s diet can significantly reduce the risk of cancer.

“According to the World Health Organization, one-third of all cancer deaths are preventable through an increased consumption of natural compounds able to modulate key molecular signaling cascades that ultimately inhibit cancer cell proliferation,” report the study authors.

A recent study found that red onions could quell cancer growth.

The current study appeared in the journal Precision Oncology.

Richard Scott
Richard Scott is a health care reporter focusing on health policy and public health. Richard keeps tabs on national health trends from his Philadelphia location and is an active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.