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Celery Extract Shrinks Breast Cancer, But …

May 18, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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University of Missouri researchers have found that a substance that can be extracted from celery, parsley, and other plants shrinks an aggressive form of breast cancer. So why is funding for clinical trials doubtful?

The substance is apigenin. The researchers found it effective against a deadly, fast-growing type of breast cancer, called BT-474, that is accelerated by progestin, a synthetic hormone sometimes given to women to treat postmenopausal symptoms.

The scientists implanted cells of the cancer in mice. Some of the mice were then given progestin. Mice in a control group were not. Cancerous tumors grew rapidly in the progestin-dosed mice. But when those mice were treated with apigenin, cancer cell growth dropped to that of the control group (the non-progestin mice), and tumors shrank.

A study detailing the findings was published online last week in Hormones and Cancer. Senior author Salman Hyder, PhD, said:

This is the first study to show that apigenin, which can be extracted from celery, parsley, and many other natural sources, is effective against human breast cancer cells that had been influenced by a certain chemical used in hormone replacement therapy.

Dr. Hyder is professor of biomedical sciences and an endowed professor in tumor angiogenesis in the university’s Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center and the College of Veterinary Medicine. He was quoted in a university news release.

“We don’t know exactly how apigenin does this on a chemical level,” Dr. Hyder said. “We do know that apigenin slowed the progression of human breast cancer cells in three ways: by inducing cell death, by inhibiting cell proliferation, and by reducing expression of a gene associated with cancer growth.”

He said blood vessels feeding cancer cells in the apigenin-treated mice also had smaller diameters.

Unlike conventional chemotherapy drugs, apigenin has no toxic side effects even at high doses.

But Dr. Hyder said he doubted that funding for human clinical trials would be forthcoming anytime soon:

One problem is, because apigenin doesn’t have a known specific target in the cancer cell, funding agencies have been reticent to support the research. Also, since apigenin is easily extracted from plants, pharmaceutical companies don’t stand to profit from the treatment; hence the industry won’t put money into studying something you can grow in your garden.

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Related seminar: Breast & Women’s Imaging Seminar

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