The tumours of mice with colon cancer diminished with size and number when the animals were fed cranberry extracts, in an experiment by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.
They are now trying to identify the molecules in the fruit responsible, which they say could lead to a better understanding of the anti-cancer potentia.
The research was presented at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), in Boston.
Colon cancer, a common form of the disease in western countries, offers a good target for a dietary treatment, one of the researchers, Dr Catherine Neto said.
“Cranberry extracts may also afford protection toward other cancers, but it seems reasonable to look at colon cancer,” she says. “Cranberry constituents and metabolites should be bioavailable to the colon as digestion proceeds.”
In previous studies, Neto and her colleagues found that chemicals derived from cranberry extracts could selectively kill off colon tumour cells in laboratory dishes.
“We’ve identified several compounds in cranberry extracts over the years that seemed promising, but we’ve always wanted to look at what happens with the compounds in an animal model of cancer,” Neto says.
This led to a collaboration with Hang Xiao of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His team had developed a mouse model that mimics the type of colon cancer associated with colitis, an inflammatory bowel condition that affects hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. alone.