Potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants may be the key to beating cancer, according to experts.
Polish researchers think that bioactive compounds in vegetables could also help patients avoid the brutal side effects of existing treatments.
They say studies have suggested that glycoalkaloids, naturally occurring chemicals also found in bell peppers, goji berries and blueberries, possess certain cancer-fighting properties.
Scientists say glycoalkaloids — naturally occurring chemicals found in potatoes — have cancer-fighting properties that could stop cancer-causing chemicals in their tracks
While chemotherapy is hugely successful in killing cancer cells, it can cause a range of unpleasant side effects, such as hair loss, nausea, and fatigue.
This is because the drugs unintentionally kill healthy cells elsewhere in the body in addition to targeting the cancer cells.
Magdalena Winkiel, of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, and colleagues said this made it worth re-examining the properties of medicinal plants.
Her team reviewed the evidence on glycoalkaloids — compounds abundant in the Solanacease family of plants, including potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants.
In the right dosage, these chemicals can be “powerful clinical tools,” Ms. Winkiel’s team said.
They focused on five glycoalkaloids – solanine, chaconine, solasonine, solamargine and tomatine – which Ms. Winkiel believes could be used to develop drugs in the future.
The findings, set out in Frontiers in Pharmacologydetail that solanine has been shown to stop potentially cancer-causing chemicals – substances known to cause cancer – from converting to carcinogens in the body.
Studies on a certain type of leukemia cell also showed that solanine kills them in small doses.
Meanwhile, chaconine has anti-inflammatory properties, with the potential to treat sepsis, the team said.
Research has suggested that solamargine may stop liver cancer cells from reproducing.
Researchers say it could be a crucial adjunctive treatment because it targets cancer stem cells, which are thought to play an important role in cancer drug resistance.
Solasonin is believed to work in a similar way.
Tomatine supports the body’s regulation of cell cycles and helps the body kill cancer cells, according to the findings.
But no research has yet been done on how the chemicals might fight cancer in human cells, one of the earliest stages of research.
Ms Winkiel said these tests are vital to confirm which glycoalkaloids are ‘safe and promising enough to test in humans’.
She added: ‘Scientists around the world are still looking for drugs that are deadly to cancer cells, but at the same time safe for healthy cells.
‘It is not easy, despite the advancements in medicine and the vigorous development of modern treatment techniques.
“That’s why it might be worth going back to medicinal plants that were successfully used years ago in the treatment of various ailments.”
Ms Winkiel noted that if the chemicals ‘cannot replicate the anti-cancer drugs used today, perhaps combined therapy will increase the effectiveness of the treatment’.
Plants have been used for decades to fight cancer, such as the chemotherapy drug Taxol, which is made from tree bark.
But there’s no research that says simply eating your five a day will kill cancer cells, even if a healthy diet may help prevent tumors in the first place.
They are not a substitute for cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, which can cure people of the disease if caught early enough.
Dr. Charles Evans, research information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Plants produce a huge and diverse range of interesting and underexplored chemicals.
“Some of these chemicals have anti-cancer effects when tested in the lab and some, like Taxol, have even become drugs that we use today in cancer treatment.
‘It is important to emphasize that many of these compounds are not suitable as medicines, because they are not effective enough or because they are not safe enough to give to people.
“It is vital that we explore all possible avenues to discover new treatments. That’s why it’s critical that researchers investigate these chemicals to see if they have the potential to become new drugs.’
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, affecting more than two MILLION women each year
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year there are more than 55,000 new cases in the UK and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it affects 266,000 people and kills 40,000 each year. But what causes it and how can it be treated?
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer arises from a cancer cell that develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.
When the breast cancer has spread to the surrounding breast tissue, it is called an ‘invasive’ breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with “carcinoma in situ,” where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.
Most cases develop in women over the age of 50, but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men, although this is rare.
Staging means how big the cancer is and whether it has spread. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another part of the body.
The cancer cells are graded from low, which means slow growth, to high, which means fast growth. High-grade cancers are more likely to come back after being treated first.
What Causes Breast Cancer?
A cancerous tumor starts with one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. Something is thought to damage or alter certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply ‘out of control’.
Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as heredity.
What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
The usual first symptom is a painless breast lump, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid-filled cysts, which are benign.
The first place where breast cancer usually spreads is the lymph nodes in the armpit. When this happens, you get a swelling or lump in an armpit.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
- Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may perform tests such as a mammogram, a special X-ray of the breast tissue that can indicate the possibility of tumors.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from an area of the body. The sample is then examined under the microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.
If you are confirmed to have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to assess whether it has spread. For example, blood tests, an ultrasound of the liver or a chest x-ray.
How is breast cancer treated?
Treatment options that may be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormone treatment. Often a combination of two or more of these treatments is used.
- Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery or removing the affected breast, depending on the size of the tumor.
- Radiotherapy: A treatment that uses high-energy beams of radiation aimed at cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells or stops cancer cells from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
- Chemotherapy: A treatment for cancer using anticancer drugs that kill cancer cells or prevent them from multiplying
- Hormone treatments: Some types of breast cancer are affected by the ‘female’ hormone estrogen, which can stimulate the cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments that lower the level of these hormones or prevent them from working are commonly used in people with breast cancer.
How successful is the treatment?
The outlook is best in those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumor at an early stage can then give a good chance of a cure.
Routine mammography offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70 means that more breast cancers are diagnosed and treated at an early stage.
For more information visit breastcancernow.org or call the toll-free helpline on 0808 800 6000