Combining blueberry extract with radiation can increase the effectiveness of treatment for cervical cancer. Those are the findings of Dr. Yujiang Fang, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Des Moines University in Iowa.
“Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays and other particles such as gamma rays to destroy cancer cells,” says Fang. “For some cancers, such as late-stage cervical cancer, radiation is a good treatment option. However, collateral damage to healthy cells always occurs. Based on previous research, we studied blueberry extract to verify it could be used as a radiosensitizer.”
Radiosensitizers are non-toxic chemicals that make cancer cells more responsive to radiation therapy. In a previous study, Fang and his research team showed that resveratrol, a compound in red grapes, could be used as a radiosensitizer for treating prostate cancer. Blueberries also contain resveratrol.
“In addition to resveratrol, blueberries also contain flavonoids,” says Fang. “Flavonoids are chemicals that may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.”
The researchers used human cervical cancer cell lines to mimic clinical treatment. The cell lines were divided into four groups that included a control group, a group that received only radiation, a group that received only blueberry extract, and a group that received both radiation and the extract.
“Our team used three different measures to confirm results of the study,” Fang says. “Radiation decreased cancer cells by approximately 20 per cent. Interestingly, the cell group that received only blueberry extract had a 25 per cent decrease in cancer. However, the biggest decline in cancer cells occurred in the radiation and extract group, with a decrease of about 70 per cent.”