Egyptian, Spanish, Israeli pomegranates are entering the market early just as there is hope for lung cancer. Researchers from Okayama University in a study reported in Food and Chemical Toxicology, describe the effects of Yamabudo, a garden vine, in mitigating lung cancer in the lab.
Lung cancer is known to be the most fatal form of cancer. Chemicals like 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) found in tobacco are usually the main culprits behind smoking-related lung cancer causing cancer biologists to actively explore targeted treatments.
Now, a research group led by Associate Professor Arimoto-Kobayashi Sakae at Okayama University has reported the potential of a berry-producing vine, Vitis coignetiae Pulliat (colloquially known as Yamabudo in Japan), against lung cancer in mice.
The team has previously shown that juice extracted from the Yamabudo fruit and 2,6-dimethoxy-1,4-benzoquinone (DBQ), a chemical found within it, have protective effects against skin cancer. Thus, in this study the potential of both these chemicals was investigated.
Mice were first treated with NNK to establish lung cancer models and tumors that subsequently developed within their lungs were assessed. After 30 weeks, mice given Yamabudo juice or DBQ showed greatly reduced tumor size.
To understand the mechanism of Yamabudo further, human lung cancer cells were employed. NNK induces cancer by facilitating a chemical change in the DNA structure, known as DNA methylation. To mimic this process, cells were exposed to MNNG (a chemical that artificially induces DNA methylation) and the effects of Yamabudo were studied. Indeed, cells that were treated with Yamabudo juice or DBQ showed lower levels of DNA methylation.
The DNA methylation induced by NNK also plays a role in mutating the DNA, making all exposed cells susceptible to cancer. The methylated forms of DNA tend to form large complexes which can undergo damage more easily.
Therefore, NNK-induced mutations were analyzed next to see if Yamabudo also plays a protective role in this regard. The number of NNK-induced mutations was, in fact, found to be considerably reduced by Yamabudo juice or DBQ.
Yamabudo thus mitigated lung cancer by repairing the DNA damage caused by toxins. Lastly, the team also assessed biological pathways which typically help cancer cells proliferate. While all such pathways were active in the lung cancer cells, treatment with Yamabudo showed a dampening of these cancer-facilitating signals.
“Stimulation of repair of alkyl DNA adducts and suppressed growth signaling pathways are potential anti-tumorigenic targets of Yamabudo juice and DBQ in NNK-induced lung tumorigenesis”, conclude the researchers.
Given the broad range of tumor-suppressing properties Yamabudo displays, it is one herbal medicine that should be explored further in lung cancer research.
However, new pomegranates are coming onto the European market. They come from Egypt, Spain, and Israel. And they are replacing the old crops from Peru and Chile. “Weeks 30 to 34 usually always guaranteed good sales. That’s because there was a gap between seasons. This year, however, Egypt, Spain, and Israel are very early. So prices remain about the same”, says Mike Looije of Yex in the Netherlands.
‘’Prices are still quite good. But the market remains somewhat reserved. People are waiting for the big wave.”
According to Mike, the overseas season was excellent. “We imported quite a few pomegranates from Peru and South Africa. Price-wise, it was a great season. The supply was 40% lower, especially from Peru. So, of course, the growers also demanded good prices”, he says.
‘’We’re now getting well into the changeover season with the early varieties. Each has its own flavor and internal and external color. So you have to be careful what you buy. Next year should become interesting.
‘’That’s if the available volume from Peru decreases even further. The big question then is whether prices will rise even more. We’ve, however, been working with fixed growers for years. That guarantees year-round availability.”
On the sales side, Mike has no concerns. “Pomegranate demand is still showing an upward trend. That’s for both the whole pomegranates and the pips. The processing industry has become an important buyer. COVID-19 only increased the demand for healthy food. Nowadays, all our buyers offer pomegranates. That’s significantly different from a few years ago”, he says.