HAIFA, ISRAEL and NEW YORK, N.Y., August 21, 2001 - On the heels of the discovery by Israeli researchers that pomegranate juice has antioxidant properties, another Israeli team has found that the fruit could have important implications for breast cancer treatment and estrogen replacement therapy.
The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology research team presented two studies at an international conference in June indicating that pomegranate seed oil triggers apoptosis — a self-destruct mechanism in breast cancer cells. Furthermore, pomegranate juice can be toxic to most estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells, while leaving normal breast cells largely unaffected. Estrogen is a hormone often prescribed to protect postmenopausal women against heart disease and osteoporosis.
In the first study, laboratory-grown breast cancer cells were treated for three days with pomegranate seed oil. The researchers observed apoptosis in 37 to 56 percent of the cancer cells, depending upon the dose of oil applied.
In the second study, both normal and cancerous breast cells were exposed to fermented pomegranate juice (pomegranate wine) and pomegranate peel extracts, which contain polyphenols (powerful antioxidants). The vast majority of the normal cells remained unaffected by the two pomegranate derivatives. But more than 75 percent of the estrogen-dependent cancer cells, and approximately half of the non-estrogen dependent cancer cells were destroyed by exposure to these same pomegranate products.
"Pomegranates are unique in that the hormonal combinations inherent in the fruit seem to be helpful both for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer," explains Dr. Ephraim Lansky, who headed the studies. "Pomegranates seem to replace needed estrogen often prescribed to protect postmenopausal women against heart disease and osteoporosis, while selectively destroying estrogen-dependent cancer cells."
Dr. Martin Goldman, a New York-based board certified internist and life medicine specialist, notes, "This is apparently a safe substance that could be helpful to many people, especially women at high-risk for developing breast cancer."
Dr. Lajos Pusztai, an assistant professor who studies breast cancer at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, says Dr. Lansky’s study "provides a potential new avenue to develop anti-cancer drugs from a natural compound."
Technion researchers have tested other health benefits of the pomegranate. In 1999, they were among the first to publish research showing the antioxidant potency of pomegranates. A later Technion study found that the daily consumption of pomegranate juice dramatically lowered oxidation of LDL cholesterol, leading to the elimination of plaques in coronary arteries.
Based on these studies, Rimonest Ltd., a biotechnology firm affiliated with the Technion’s Entrepeneurial Incubator Company (TEIC), has launched a new product intended as a cardiovascular protective compound. The product, scheduled to reach the U.S. market this summer, is a mixture of pomegranate juice, seeds and peel derivatives. It will be sold as CardiogranateTM under the label of Slayman & Reed, Inc., of Bakersfield, California.
Rimonest is one of several companies participating in a European Union-funded project to develop machinery for extracting the edible parts of the pomegranate from the bitter peels. For more informationabout pomegranate products, go to www.pomegranateconnection.com andwww.rimonest.com.