PHILADELPHIA—Presentations at the AACR's Frontiers in Cancer Prevention conference, showed both the promise and pitfalls of attempts to move complementary approaches from the fringes to the front of cancer care. One of the dangers when looking at early complementary research is the risk of overinterpreting preliminary results, Ernest T. Hawk, MD, MPH, head of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, told ONI in an interview.
"We have an obligation to our patients and to our scientific colleagues to maintain the scientific method, which means developing scientific hypotheses in an appropriate series of studies, and evaluating the results of each study in a conservative and deliberative manner," Dr. Hawk said. "This strong scientific path generates data we can rely on to ultimately improve human health. When we take short cuts, we run the risk of defeating ourselves."
Eight mice drink the punch
An unplanned illustration of this point was provided at an AACR press briefing. It was meant to include a presentation by University of Sydney research fellow Jas Singh, PhD, on a small animal study of a phytochemical cocktail sold commercially as Blueberry Punch (abstract A104). Dr. Singh's slot was preempted by Greg Jardine, owner of the company, Dr. Red Nutraceuticals, that sells the drink and partly funded the study. Mr. Jardine began by saying, "Blueberry Punch has entered the ring, and it has delivered a knock-out blow [against prostate cancer]."
This claim was supported only by anecdotal evidence and Dr. Singh's study of eight mice with human prostate cancer xenografts who drank the punch in their water. After 2 weeks, tumors in the eight treated mice had grown 25% less than those in the control mice who drank only tap water. Dr. Singh also reported preliminary immunohistochemical analysis showing decreased levels of cyclin D1 protein, suggesting reduced cell proliferation in tumors from the treated mice.
The preparation includes fruit juice concentrates (blueberry, red grapes, raspberry and elderberry), grape seed and skin extract, citrus skin extracts, green tea extract, olive leaf/olive pulp extracts, tarragon, curcurmin, and ginger.
Mr. Jardine said that 12,000 prostate cancer patients in Australia and New Zealand are already drinking commercially available Blueberry Punch daily. A proof-of-concept trial in 150 men with prostate cancer is planned, he said.
"I would not recommend a change in clinical behavior based solely on eight mice with xenograft growth data," Meir Stampfer, MD, DrPH, of Harvard Medical School, told ONI.