Exciting early trials suggest that super-strength vitamin C doses could be a way to fight leukaemia. Found in high levels in oranges, peppers and kale, scientists believe it encourages blood cancer stem cells to die.
Faulty stem cells in bone marrow often multiply, fueling the growth of fatal tumours, but vitamin C tells them to die, scientists claim. But they warned it is impossible to get the required amount through fruit, and that such high quantities would be given intravenously.
By injecting patients with it, sufferers can get up to 500 times the amount than they would through eating fruit and vegetables. This isn’t the first time researchers have studied the cancer-fighting properties of vitamin C – but it’s effects on leukaemia were previously not understood.
What did the scientists discover? The new Perlmutter Cancer Centre trial discovered vitamin C activated the TE2 function in mice engineered to be deficient in the enzyme.
Some forms of leukaemia often involve genetic changes in this enzyme – which stops faulty stem cells from dying naturally. Lead author Professor Benjamin Neel said: “We’re excited by the prospect that high-dose vitamin C might become a safe treatment for blood diseases.”
Giving patients high doses of vitamin C is 10 times more effective than some drugs trialled in the battle against cancer, a study claimed in March. Also called ascorbic acid, its effects on cancer stem cells, which are known to fuel the growth of fatal tumours, had never before been evaluated.
However, University of Salford researchers believe they have pinpointed exactly how it starves cancer stem cells. By inhibiting the breakdown of glucose, the mitochondria – considered the ‘powerhouse’ of cells – are unable to gain vital energy it needs to thrive.
Writing in the journal Cell, he said it would most likely be used in combination with chemotherapy or other conventional forms. Also, multiple scientific studies have linked avocados with health benefits ranging from anti-ageing to warding off cancer.
But new research suggests we are eating them all wrong – and throwing out part of it that is a ‘gold mine’ of powerful protective nutrients. In the first study of its kind, scientists have discovered that the seed husks – which are usually discarded along with the seed – are rich in medicinal compounds that could prevent the growth of malignant tumours and the build-up of fat inside our arteries.
These could be used to improve treatments for cancer, heart disease and a host of debilitating diseases. Experts say the least appreciated part of the trendy fruit could soon undergo a “trash-to-treasure” transformation and as well as being used in medicine could enhance cosmetics, perfumes and other consumer goods.
Dr. Debasish Bandyopadhyay, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, said: “It could very well be that avocado seed husks, which most people consider as the waste of wastes, are actually the gem of gems because the medicinal compounds within them could eventually be used to treat cancer, heart disease and other conditions.
“Our results also suggest that the seed husks are a potential source of chemicals used in plastics and other industrial products.” Also, some children born with birth defects may be at increased risk for specific types of cancer, according to a new review from the Brown School and the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.
In the first systematic and most comprehensive review on the topic, Kimberly Johnson, associate professor at the Brown School, and her colleagues, including Todd Druley, a pediatric oncologist and assistant professor in the School of Medicine, analyzed articles reporting data from 80 studies conducted around the world. They found an increased risk for certain cancers among children born with birth defects.
The analysis, “Pediatric Cancer Risk in Association with Birth Defects: A Systematic Review,” was published July 27 in the online journal PLOS ONE.
Identifying and understanding connections between abnormal fetal or childhood development and cancer will have implications for personalizing the treatment of children, Druley said.
“Clear, positive associations exist between birth defects and pediatric cancer with evidence for increased risks for specific cancer/birth-defect type combinations such as central nervous system abnormalities and central nervous system cancer, rib anomalies and a number of cancer types, and genitourinary abnormalities and heptoblastoma,” Johnson said.
Advances in gene sequencing may provide even better identification of children with birth defects who are at high risk of cancer. “This work provides a foundation for future investigations that are needed to clarify specific birth defect types predisposing toward malignancy and possible underlying causes of both birth defects and malignancy,” Johnson wrote in the paper.
Meanwhile, in the studies on mice, turning off the TET2 mechanism caused abnormal stem cell behaviour. The changes were reversed when it was restored. They discovered vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, did the same thing as restoring the function genetically.
The bizarre technique also suppressed the growth of leukaemia cancer stem cells from human patients implanted into the mice. When combining vitamin C with a PARP inhibitor, a drug known to kill cancer cells, they found it had an enhanced effect.
Changes in genetic code reduce TE2 function are known to be present in half of all chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia cases. The same faulty process can also be seen in one in 10 acute myeloid leukaemia patients, the New York-based researchers added.
Both forms of the disease can lead to anaemia and bleeding as abnormal stem cells multiply in the bone marrow and interfere with blood cell production. The researchers said the results revolve around the relationship between TET2 and cytosine, one of four ‘letters’ that comprise the DNA code in genes.
Meanwhile, how was the avocado research was carried out? Nearly five million tons of avocados are produced worldwide annually – in most cases, the flesh is eaten and the seed is binned.
Some edible oil manufacturers extract avocado oil from the seeds, but they remove the husk surrounding the seed and discard it before processing. Bandyopadhyay and his students sought to find out more about what manufacturers are really throwing away when they discard the seed husks. The researchers ground about 300 dried avocado seed husks into 21 ounces of powder.
After additional processing, the powder yielded around three teaspoons of seed husk oil and slightly more than an ounce of seed husk wax.
In lab experiments, the research team found 116 compounds in the oil and 16 in the wax. Interestingly, many of the compounds don’t appear to be found in the seeds themselves.
Among the constituents in the oil was heptacosane, which might inhibit the growth of tumour cells, according to the team.
It also contains dodecanoic acid, which increases high density lipoprotein (known as HDL) and, as a result, could reduce the risk of atherosclerosis – the build-up of fatty material inside your arteries that can eventually cause life-threatening problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
Additionally, the team found behenyl alcohol – also known as docosanol – an important ingredient used in antiviral medications and treatments to cold sores/fever blisters.
In the wax, the researchers detected a range of compounds including butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), an antioxidant food additive and preservative in cosmetics.
Now Dr Bandyopadhyay says he and his colleagues will modify several of the natural compounds so that they can be used to create better medications with fewer side effects.
The findings were presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, DC.
Source: The Guardian Newspaper