Research Shows Berries Normalize Cancer Causing Genes

Researchers from Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center have discovered that black raspberries slow the development of cancer causing genes, restoring them to normal activity. The study results suggest “that a mixture of preventative agents, which berries provide, may more effectively prevent cancer than a single agent that targets only one or a few genes,” according to lead investigator Gary D. Stoner, PhD, professor of pathology, human nutrition and medicine at OSUCC.

The study results, published in Cancer Research also identified 53 genes that may be responsible for the early development of cancer, potentially leading to targeted chemotherapeutic agents.

For three weeks the scientists fed rats either a 5% diet of freeze-dried black raspberry powder or a regular diet. During the three weeks, one-half of the rodents in each group were injected with N-nitrosomethylbenzylamine, a cancer promoting enzyme while they continued with the designated diets.

When the scientists examined the cells in the rat’s esophagus, they found increased gene expression, indicative of early cancerous changes - 2,261 of the genes showed 50% or higher changes in activity. Dr. Stoner explains, “These changes in gene expression correlated with changes in the tissue that included greater cell proliferation, marked inflammation, and increased apoptosis.” However, in the rats that were fed black raspberry powder, the tissue appeared normal and healthy, and 462 of the genes showed almost normal activity. The researchers then used a second cancer preventing agent, which restored 53 of the genes to normal.

According to Dr. Stoner, “Because both berries and the second agent maintain near-normal levels of expression of these 53 genes, we believe their early deregulation may be especially important in the development of esophageal cancer.” Dr. Stoner studies food for esophageal cancer prevention.

Dr. Stoner also says… “using single compounds alone is not enough. We never get 100 percent tumor inhibition with berries. So we need to think about another food that we can add to them that will boost the chemopreventive activities of berries alone”.

Berries are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. The researchers of the current study say that freezing the berries provided ten times the amount of phenols and phytosterols, known to prevent cancer in animals, making them “a power pack of chemoprevention agents that can influence the different signaling pathways that are deregulated in cancer,” per Dr. Stoner.