Blueberries could be a key ingredient in the fight against cervical cancer, researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia have found.
The team set out to study the effects of combining blueberry extract with radiation therapy for human cervical cancer and found the antioxidant-rich fruit can significantly improve treatment efficacy.
Lead study author Dr Yujiang Fang and his team published their results in Pathology and Oncology Research.
Radiation therapy is the primary form of treatment for cervical cancer. It’s used to target cancerous cells and destroy future mutations. However, healthy cells in the area of often affected, too.
According to Medical News Today, Dr Fang’s team set out to establish whether blueberry extract could be used to make cancer cells more vulnerable to radiation therapy.
They tested the effects of the extract both alone and in combination with radiation therapy, and compared them to the effects of radiation therapy alone across four different control groups.
They found that radiation therapy alone decreased cancer cells by approximately 20 percent, while the cell group that received only blueberry extract had a 25 percent decrease in cancer.
However, when the treatments were combined, the number of human cervical cancer cells fell by around 70 percent.
The blueberry extract made cancer cells more sensitive to radiation therapy and also helped reduce the risk of future cancer cells developing.
“Cancer cells avoid death by remodelling themselves,” Dr Fang said. “Along with reducing cell proliferation, the extract also ‘tricks’ cancer cells into dying. So it inhibits the birth and promotes the death of cancer cells.
“Blueberries are very common and found all over the world. They are readily accessible and inexpensive. As a natural treatment option for boosting the effectiveness of existing therapies, I feel they would be enthusiastically accepted.”
According to the Cancer Council of Australia, there were 813 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in Australia in 2013. This number increased in the United States where around 12,820 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed every year, and more than 4,200 women are expected to die from the disease.
Experts say the all deadly cases of cervical cancer can be prevented with regular pap smears or HPV tests.