A patent-pending compound isolated from fresh blackberries may inhibit the expression of genes that are associated with cancer-promoting agents. The purified compound, cyanidin-3-glucoside (C3G), inhibited tumors from growing and spreading when used in animal test models.
Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) collaborated on the study. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.
C3G may one day become a key natural ingredient in new products formulated for their anti-cancer properties. Cell biologist Min Ding, with NIOSH in Morgantown, W. Va., and plant physiologist Shiow Wang, with the ARS Fruit Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., conducted the research with colleagues at West Virginia University-Morgantown. The study appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
C3G is among a series of plant chemicals that are a subclass of flavonoids–water-soluble plant pigments known for their antioxidative and antimicrobial effects.
For the study, the researchers tested mice that had skin tumors. In one group, they found a significant reduction in the number and size of skin tumors among the mice that had been supplemented with C3G, when compared to those that had not been supplemented.
In another experimental model with immune-system-suppressed mice, the researchers studied lung cancer cells because of their relatively high tendency to spread to other organs. They found that the purified blackberry compound not only significantly reduced the amount of cancer cell growth in the mice, but also inhibited the spread of the cancer cells to other organs.
C3G exhibited anti-cancer activity in this animal model, according to the researchers. The preventive effect of the extract may be due to the compound’s ability to control free radicals known as reactive oxygen species, which activate molecular signals involved in initiating, promoting and progressing cancer.
The findings indicate a promising direction for understanding the molecular mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects of plant chemicals on human health.