UW study shows pomegranate juice may help fight lung cancer

April 4, 2008

Researchers are adding to the list of cancer types for which pomegranates seem to halt growth. A recent study at the University of Wisconsin–Madison using a mouse model shows that consuming pomegranates could potentially help reduce the growth and spread of lung cancer cells or even prevent lung cancer from developing.

Photo of pomegranates

The pomegranate fruit has been used for centuries in ancient cultures for medicinal purposes. For a long time, the fruit has been widely consumed fresh and, more recently, in beverage form as juice.

In the April 1 issue of Cancer Research, researchers led by Hasan Mukhtar, co-leader of the Cancer Chemoprevention Program of the University of Wisconsin Paul P. Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center, demonstrate that drinking pomegranate fruit extract helps slow the growth of lung cancer in mice.

"Pomegranate fruit continues to show great promise," says Mukhtar, professor of dermatology at the School of Medicine and Public Health and a member of the Carbone Cancer Center. "We have earlier shown that pomegranate fruit contains very powerful skin and prostate cancer-fighting agents. These recent findings expand the possible health benefits of the fruit to the leading cause of cancer death in the country and worldwide: lung cancer."

In the study, the research team examined the effect of oral consumption of a dose of pomegranate fruit extract on the growth, progression, blood-vessel development and signaling pathways in two mouse lung tumor protocols. The dosages tested were comparable to what humans could reasonably consume in a day. Chemicals were used to induce lung tumors, and the mice received pomegranate extract in drinking water. Lung tumor yield was then examined at different times during several months. Mice who were exposed to cancer-inducing chemicals and who were treated with pomegranate had significantly lower lung tumor growth than mice treated with carcinogens only. Tumor reduction was 53.9 percent at 84 days and 61.6 percent at 140 days.

The key to the cancer-fighting capabilities of pomegranate lies in its abundance of antioxidants that have an anti-inflammatory effect. In fact, researchers say pomegranate juice has higher levels of antioxidants than do red wine and green tea, which have also been investigated for their potential cancer prevention effects.

The pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) fruit has been used for centuries in ancient cultures for medicinal purposes. For a long time, the fruit has been widely consumed fresh and, more recently, in beverage form as juice. In other studies, the fruit has been shown to suppress inflammatory cell signaling proteins in colon and prostate cancer. The fruit also possesses other remarkable anti-tumor-promoting effects.

Lung cancer has increased at alarming rates in the last decade, particularly because of trends in smoking. Lung cancer is now the most common cause of cancer death in the world, representing 28 percent of all cancer deaths. Physicians have found this cancer difficult to control with conventional therapeutic and surgical approaches, and the prognosis is poor with an overall five-year survival rate of 10-14 percent in the United States.

Researchers believe delaying the process of lung cancer development could be an important strategy to control this disease. Mukhtar says that the use of fruits and vegetables endowed with cancer-fighting properties is the best way to achieve this goal.