Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio are one step closer to halting cell damage that can lead to cancer involving epithelial cells, such as skin cancer and lung cancer.
The husband and wife research team of Zbigniew Walaszek, Ph.D. and Margaret Hanausek, Ph.D., both research associate professors of pharmacology at the University of Texas, San Antonio, found that certain plant combinations provide protective qualities that could eventually lead to supplements and creams or sunscreens that could be use to prevent the most diagnosed type of cancer—skin cancer.
The National Cancer Institute estimates in 2010 more than one million Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer, including an increasing number of people in their 20s and 30s.
The plant-based chemicals being studied occur naturally in grapes, berries, walnuts and a number of other edible plants. They include resveratrol, found in the skin of red grapes and grape seed extract; calcium D-glucarate, a salt of D-glucaric acid present in the human bloodstream but also found in many fruits and vegetables; and ellegic acid, a polyphenol antioxidant found in a host of berries and in walnuts.
The researchers say it’s the combination of plant chemicals that’s key. When the same plant substances are given individually they produced markedly less benefit. That’s because each plant chemical provides protection against cancer cell growth in a different way. When the ingredients are combined, they create a sort of “synergistic effect” that even in low doses—either administered topically to the skin or absorbed through the diet— proves effective.
“The combined inhibitory effects of different plant chemicals are expected to be particularly beneficial to, for example, smokers, former smokers or individuals with heavily tanned skin, who carry thousands of cells already initiated for malignant transformation,” Hanausek said.
Researchers acknowledge that not all information can be gleaned from a skin cancer model, such as the effects on organs, including the lungs, but they say it is an exciting start.