Pancreatic cancer – the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men and women in the United States – carries a poor prognosis, with a five-year survival rate that currently hovers around a grim 5 percent. (conventionally speaking)
Disturbingly, incidence rates of this lethal cancer have been rising steadily over the past decade – giving a sense of urgency to the search for effective treatments. Now, just-published research supports the ability of quercetin – a plant compound – to not only suppress the growth of pancreatic cancer cells, but to help significantly reduce the risk of developing the disease in the first place. Quercetin has multiple methods of action against cancer Quercetin, a natural plant compound found in fruits and vegetables, has attracted the attention of researchers for its antioxidant, allergy-reducing and anti-inflammatory properties. It also appears to have the ability to help protect against cancer. Scientists have long known that eating healthy amounts of fruits and vegetables is associated with lower cancer rates, and (now) research is highlighting the reasons why.
This beneficial flavonol promotes the activity of superoxide dismutase, an important antioxidant, thereby increasing the body’s ability to neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative damage. It also reduces damage to cell DNA, mitigating the risk of potential cancer-causing mutations. But there’s even more to quercetin’s anticancer functions. A just-published new study pulls back the curtain to show how quercetin operates at a cellular level to foil cancer-promoting mechanisms in the body.
Quercetin disrupts cancer-forming processes
In a study published last spring in OncoTargets and Therapy, researchers found that quercetin decreased the invasiveness and metastasis of pancreatic cancer cells. According to the team, quercetin interferes with a process known as EMT, or epithelial-mesenchymal transition, which loosens the junctions between cells and makes it easier for cancer to get a foothold. EMT works hand-in-glove with MMPs, or matrix metalloproteases, which also play an essential role in cancer cell invasion and metastasis. MMPs have the ability to degrade the extracellular matrix and allow tumors to infiltrate tissue. But, researchers found that quercetin was able to decrease the secretion of MMPs.
When the team used an activating agent, p-STAT3, to increase EMT and MMP secretion – and make cells more malignant – quercetin seemed to stay a step ahead of the cancer cells, reversing EMT, invasion and metastasis by blocking the p-STAT3’s signaling pathway. In light of these exciting results, it’s not surprising that the team proposed quercetin as a “potential new therapeutic strategy against pancreatic cancer.”
New study confirms results of earlier research
In a 2013 study, researchers had found that quercetin inhibited the growth of pancreatic cancer cells by inducing apoptosis, or “cell suicide.” When cancer cells were treated with quercetin, the flavonol “robustly” induced their death, the team reported. And, when quercetin was given orally, it significantly suppressed pancreatic tumor growth in live animals. This was important, because past animal studies had used injections of quercetin. However, the researchers found that oral quercetin was quite effective. The team also found that quercetin worked just as well to suppress tumors when used by itself as when it was combined with gemcitabine, an FDA-approved drug for pancreatic cancer. In fact, they stressed the fact of quercetin’s effectiveness as a single agent against pancreatic cancer tumors, declaring: “Quercetin alone inhibited tumor growth to such an extent that it could not be further enhanced by the addition of gemcitabine.”
Like the researchers in the latest study, these scientists concluded by asking that quercetin be considered as a potential adjunct treatment for pancreatic cancer.
Dietary quercetin intake reduces cancer risk
In a 2007 study published in American Journal of Epidemiology, an international team of scientists examined the effect of three flavonoids – quercetin, kaempferol and myricetin – on the development of pancreatic cancer.
Researchers tracked food intake and health outcomes for over 183,000 participants for eight years – and found that flavonols reduced the risk of pancreatic cancer, with the most dramatic protective effects found in smokers. Of the three flavonoids, researchers believed that quercetin had the strongest preventive effect – and noted that a full 70 percent of the participants’ flavonol consumption came from quercetin-rich apples and onions. Protect yourself with a healthy dietary intake and supplementation quercetin
Obviously, it’s a great idea to eat as many (organic) fruits and vegetables possible. In addition, you can obtain supplements in capsule or liposomal form – which can increase the nutrient absorption rate. Quercetin has very low toxicity, and usually causes few adverse effects. However, as always, we suggest you consult with a trusted healthcare provider that has nutritional experience to figure out what’s best for you – especially if you have a serious health condition like cancer. In terms of food choices, Onions, in particular, are a good pick – with over 21 mg of quercetin per 100-gram serving. Cranberries, kale, apples, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, grapes and green tea are other good sources of this beneficial flavonol.
Studies into the cancer-fighting effects of quercetin are ongoing. If clinical studies bear out the encouraging findings of cell and animal studies, quercetin may very well be revealed as a powerful weapon in the fight against pancreatic and other cancers.
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