James Duke, Ph.D., author of The Green Pharmacy, found more than 20 anti-inflammatory compounds in celery and celery seeds, including a substance called apigenin, which is powerful in its anti-inflammatory action. Adding celery seeds to soups, stews or as a salt substitute in many recipes can boost the flavonoid content of these preparations.
“Apigenin alone induced cell death in two aggressive human pancreatic cancer cell lines. But we received the best results when we pre-treated cancer cells with apigenin for 24 hours..” said Elvira de Mejia, a U of I professor of food chemistry and food toxicology.
Pancreatic cancer is a very aggressive cancer, and there are few early symptoms, meaning that the disease is often not found before it has spread. Ultimately the goal is to develop a cure, but prolonging the lives of patients would be a significant development, Johnson added.
It is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths, with a five-year survival rate of only 6 percent, she said. The scientists found that apigenin inhibited an enzyme called glycogen synthase kinase-3Î² (GSK-3Î²), which led to a decrease in the production of anti-apoptotic genes in the pancreatic cancer cells. Apoptosis means that the cancer cell self-destructs because its DNA has been damaged.
Cancer is not a result of damaged DNA, but occurs because of a problem in the DNA repair mechanism itself.
In one of the cancer cell lines, the percentage of cells undergoing apoptosis went from 8.4 percent in cells that had not been treated with the flavonoid to 43.8 percent in cells that had been treated with a 50-micromolar dose. In this case, no chemotherapy drug was needed.
Treatment with the flavonoid also modified gene expression. “Certain genes associated with pro-inflammatory cytokines were highly upregulated,” de Mejia said.
According to Johnson, the scientists’ in vitro study in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research is the first to show that apigenin treatment can lead to an increase in interleukin 17s in pancreatic cells, showing its potential relevance in anti-pancreatic cancer activity.
Pancreatic cancer patients would probably not be able to eat enough flavonoid-rich foods to raise blood plasma levels of the flavonoid to an effective level, however natural supplements with concentrated levels of the flavonoids could be a potential for effective cancer therapy.
And prevention of this frightening disease is another story. “If you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables throughout your life, you’ll have chronic exposure to these bioactive flavonoids, which would certainly help to reduce the risk of cancer,” she noted. Research in this area, being very fundamental in nature is fascinating. There are many flavonoids with different and important biological functions and their potential for disease prevention is unlimited.
Karen Foster is a holistic nutritionist, avid blogger, with five kids and an active lifestyle that keeps her in pursuit of the healthiest path towards a life of balance.