Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Fruit Production
Study finds strawberries may slow cancer


April 6, 2011
By Ohio State University

Topics

strawberries02April 6, 2011, Columbus,
OH – Eating strawberries may be a way to help people at risk of esophageal
cancer protect themselves from the disease, according to a new study by
researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur
G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC –
James) and researchers in China.

April 6, 2011, Columbus,
OH – Eating strawberries may be a way to help people at risk of esophageal
cancer protect themselves from the disease, according to a new study by
researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur
G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC –
James)
and researchers in China.

Dr. Tong Chen presented
the findings recently at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
102nd meeting in Orlando, Fla. The study is the first-ever collaborative Ohio
State
cancer clinical trial to be conducted in China.

Advertisment
strawberries02 
  

“We concluded from this
study that six months of strawberry treatment is safe and easy to consume,”
said Dr. Chen, lead author, and assistant professor in the division of medical
oncology, department of internal medicine at Ohio State. “In addition, our
preliminary data suggests that strawberries decreased histological grade of
precancerous lesions and reduced cancer-related molecular events.”

Dr. Chen is also a
member of the molecular carcinogenesis and chemoprevention program in Ohio
State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center
.

Previously published
research by Dr. Chen and colleagues found that freeze-dried strawberries
significantly inhibited tumor development in the esophagus of rats. Based on
these results, the researchers embarked on a phase Ib clinical trial in China
to investigate the effects of freeze-dried strawberries on patients with
esophageal precancerous lesions.

“We found that daily
consumption of strawberries suppressed various biomarkers involved in
esophageal carcinogenesis, including cell proliferation, inflammation and gene
transcription,” Dr. Chen said.

Each of the 36 study
participants ate 60 grams (about two ounces) of freeze-dried strawberries daily
for six months. The researchers obtained biopsy specimens before and after the
strawberry consumption. The results showed that 29 out of 36 participants
experienced a decrease in histological grade of the precancerous lesions during
the study.

“We predict that the
majority of patients with precancerous lesions in their esophagus will develop esophageal
cancer over subsequent decades,” said Dr. Chen. “Our study is
important because it shows that strawberries may slow the progression of
precancerous lesion in the esophagus. Strawberries may be an alternative, or
may work together with other chemopreventive drugs, for the prevention of
esophageal cancer. But, we will need to test this in randomized
placebo-controlled trials in the future.”

Esophageal cancer is the
third most common gastrointestinal cancer and the sixth most frequent cause of
cancer death in the world, said Dr. Chen, who also holds a doctorate in Public
Health. Dr. Chen and her team are studying esophageal squamous cell carcinoma,
which makes up 95 per cent of cases of esophageal cancer worldwide. The
survival rate of this type of esophageal cancer is very low, with only 10 per
cent of patients living five years after diagnosis. Esophageal squamous cell
carcinoma is quite common in China, Japan, the Transkei region of South Africa,
Iran, France and Puerto Rico.

“Since this clinical
trial is being conducted in China, considerably more effort is required to
establish and complete the trial than is typically necessary at our own
institution. Nevertheless, we have established a team of highly collaborative
investigators who are working well together,” said Dr. Chen.

China has the largest
population in the world, and the number of potential participants for clinical
trials is higher than in any other country in the world.

“We believe that
establishing collaborative research teams will enhance clinical research, and
that our project will ‘open doors’ for multiple other trials in China,” Dr.
Chen said.

In the United States,
Canada and Europe, the risk factors for developing esophageal cancer include
tobacco and alcohol use, along with poor diet lacking fruits and vegetables. In
Asia, additional risk factors include dietary intake of salty food and of food
contaminated with various mycotoxins,
deficiencies in dietary vitamins and minerals and thermal injuries due to the
consumption of hot beverages.

More than 16,000 new
cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year,
according to the American Cancer Society.