There have been many advances in recent decades in regards to the early detection and treatment of cancer. Better screening and more sensitive imaging tests make it easier to diagnose cancer in its early stages and patients now have more options than ever in regards to treatments.
In spite of this, however, cancer remains among the leading causes of death in the United States and many cancer treatments still bring terrible side effects, include pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and serious skin conditions. It is no wonder then that the search is on to help find natural ways to prevent or treat cancer which still allow for a good quality of life. One such natural way may well be contained in the average bottle of olive oil.
What New Research Shows
It has long been known that olive oil has many health benefits. This includes the promotion of good cardiac function through lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. However, new research is revealing that it may be useful in fighting cancer as well.
Scientists working together at Rutgers and New York City’s Hunter College have isolated a compound in olive oil known as oleocanthal. While it was suspected to have cancer-fighting properties from previous research, the mechanism of how this happened was still unknown until fairly recently, though it was suspected that the oleocanthal was able to kill off cancer cells through targeting specific proteins in those cells.
This new research shows that in fact, the oleocanthal compound is able to break through the lysomes within the cancer cells which hold the waste products. Cancer cells tend to produce more waste than other cells but also have a more fragile membrane surrounding these lysomes. This puncturing induces the death of the cancer cells within 30-60 minutes. This process is considered, at the cellular level, to be a novel way of approaching the elimination of cancer cells.
What is really amazing about this is that, unlike nearly all traditional cancer treatments, there appear to be no side effects for the patient to contend with. The oleocanthal appears to be able to selectively target cancer cells while leaving the healthy cells around it unharmed.
Future Research Needed
The scientists in charge of these findings report that this study was done in vitro. This means that the oleocanthal compound was tested on living cancer cells that had been grown inside a test tube in a lab. The next step will be to do in vivo studies, where the effects of oleocanthal on cancer cells inside a living organism are studied to see if the compound is able to produce a similar effect. The researchers are also eager to find more out about why cancer cells appear to have a more fragile lysomal membrane than do non-cancer cells, as this might lead to other promising treatments.
So, more research will have to be done before any of these findings can be translated into new cancer treatments. However, the preliminary results are hopeful and may eventually pave the way for better management of this serious disease.
More by Christine . S