A woman diagnosed with breast cancer today can anticipate surgery and possible treatment with chemotherapy. But some day, she might be able to consider treatment with peach and plum extracts as an alternative to chemotherapy.
Scientists at AgriLife Research report that even the most aggressive breast cancer cells died after treatment with peach and plum extracts at their laboratory in Texas. The scientists say organic compounds called phenols caused the cancer cells to die. These phenols are slightly acidic chemicals which can be associated with specific traits in fruit including smell, taste, and color.
This is a significant discovery that may lead to an alternative to chemotherapy for breast cancer treatment. Traditional chemotherapy does not distinguish between bad cancer cells and good cells in the body. Where chemotherapy kills all cells, the fruit extracts used in the study killed only the cancer cells while leaving the other cells healthy. Dr. David Byrne is a plant breeder at AgriLife Research who specifically studies stone fruit such as peaches and plums. Byrne said, “Here, there is a five-fold difference in the toxic intensity. You can put it at a level where it will kill the cancer cells – the very aggressive ones – and not the normal ones.” Further laboratory tests also showed that the compounds appear to prevent cancer from growing in research animals.
The researchers decided to begin their research using breast cancer as opposed to other types of cancer because of the large number of women affected by breast cancer each year. In 2009, the National Cancer Institute reported over 192,000 new cases of breast cancer in women and 1,910 cases in men. Over 16 percent of all cancer deaths among women around the world are caused by breast cancer.
After studying various kinds of fruit, the researchers determined that the antioxidants and phytonutrients in plums are as high or higher than those found in blueberries. While the compounds needed for the alternative cancer treatment are found in most fruit, they have a higher concentration in stone fruit such as peaches and pears.