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Ellagic and Antioxidants in Cancer Research

Current research shows encouraging results with ellagic acid (from natural ellagitannens found in fruits and nuts). Ellagic acid is a potent antioxidant that when taken as a supplement impacts cancer as well as aids in conventional radiation and chemotherapy.

Several pieces of current research will be highlighted. The endnotes (i.e., Endnote 1) cite the actual work and the internet address of the information. Studies often cited great promise and the desire for further studies to confirm and expand the results.

  • Ellagic results in potent antitumor activity in vivo (in living studies). The research conclusion is that it may be helpful for prevention and treatment of cancer. Endnote 1

  • Ellagic produced natural cell death (apoptosis) of human bladder cancer.  Endnote 2

  • Ellagic and quercetin (a flavonoid) interact with resveratrol to cause apoptosis in human leukemia cells. When combined, it enhances the anticancer effects of all of the antioxidants.  Endnote 3

  • Furthermore, another study by Mertens-Talcott showed the synergism of ellagic and the flavonoid quercetin. The results were more than the additive sum of either polyphenol alone.  Endnote 4 

It would follow that formulations combining antioxidants may produce exceptional response in cancer cells. 

Questions always arise if ellagic acid can be used in conjunction with conventional medical treatment, i.e., radiation and chemotherapy.

  • Bhosle found that combining ellagic acid with radiation actually enhances the results on the cancer. At the same time the ellagic protects normal cells against radiation damage.  Endnote 5

  • In another study on prostate cancer, Falsaperla found that using ellagic acid in a support therapy while doing chemotherapy produced a reduction in chemotherapy induced toxicity.  Endnote 6

An excellent work by Prasad is entitled “Multiple dietary antioxidants enhance the efficacy of standard and experimental cancer therapies and decrease their toxicity.”  Endnote 7  It can be downloaded and printed in its’ entirety (click here), although the abstract follows. 

This document has been used to convince oncologists to allow simultaneous use of antioxidants with their prescribed chemotherapy with favorable results. 

Abstract: “Cancer patients can be divided into 3 groups: those receiving standard or experimental therapy, those who have become unresponsive to these therapies, and those in remission at risk for recurrence or a second new cancer. While impressive progress in standard cancer therapy has been made, the value of this therapy in the management of solid tumors may have reached a plateau. 

At present, there is no strategy to reduce the risk of recurrence of the primary tumors or of a second cancer among survivors. Patients unresponsive to standard or experimental therapies have little option except for poor quality of life for the remainder of life. Therefore, additional approaches should be developed to improve the efficacy of current management of cancer.

In this review, the author proposes that an active nutritional protocol that includes high doses of multiple dietary antioxidants and their derivatives (vitamin C, alpha-tocopheryl succinate, and natural beta-carotene), but not endogenously made antioxidants (glutathione- and antioxidant enzyme-elevating agents), when administered as an adjunct to radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or experimental therapy, may improve its efficacy by increasing tumor response and decreasing toxicity. 

This nutritional protocol can also be used when patients become unresponsive to standard therapy or experimental therapy to improve quality of life and possibly increase the survival time. The authors also propose that after completion of standard therapy and/or experimental therapy, a maintenance nutritional protocol that contains lower doses of antioxidants and their derivatives, together with modification in diet and lifestyle, may reduce the risk of recurrence of the original tumor and development of a second cancer among survivors. 

Experimental data and limited human studies suggest that use of these nutritional approaches may improve oncologic outcomes and decrease toxicity. This review also discusses the reasons for the current debates regarding the use of antioxidants during radiation or chemotherapy.”

Compiled by JD Dennison 

To download a printable version of this webpage click here

End Notes

1.    Carcinogenesis. 2005 Apr;26(4):821-6. Epub 2005 Jan 20.
Combined inhibition of PDGF and VEGF receptors by ellagic acid, a dietary-derived phenolic compound.
Labrecque L, Lamy S, Chapus A, Mihoubi S, Durocher Y, Cass B, Bojanowski MW, Gingras D, Beliveau R.


2.    Anticancer Res. 2005 Mar-Apr;25(2A):971-9.
Ellagic acid induced p53/p21 expression, G1 arrest and apoptosis in human bladder cancer T24 cells.
Li TM, Chen GW, Su CC, Lin JG, Yeh CC, Cheng KC, Chung JG.


3.    Cancer Lett. 2005 Feb 10;218(2):141-51.
Ellagic acid and quercetin interact synergistically with resveratrol in the induction of apoptosis and cause transient cell cycle arrest in human leukemia cells.
Mertens-Talcott SU, Percival SS.


4.    J Nutr. 2005 Mar;135(3):609-14.
Ellagic acid potentiates the effect of quercetin on p21waf1/cip1, p53, and MAP-kinases without affecting intracellular generation of reactive oxygen species in vitro.
Mertens-Talcott SU, Bomser JA, Romero C, Talcott ST, Percival SS.
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0370, USA.


5.    Clin Chim Acta. 2005 Sep;359(1-2):89-100
Enhancement of radiation-induced oxidative stress and cytotoxicity in tumor cells by ellagic acid.
Bhosle SM, Huilgol NG, Mishra KP.
Radiation Oncology Division, Dr. Balabhai Nanavati Hospital, Mumbai 400 056, India.


6.    Eur Urol. 2005 Apr;47(4):449-54; discussion 454-5. Epub 2005 Jan 19
Support ellagic acid therapy in patients with hormone refractory prostate cancer (HRPC) on standard chemotherapy using vinorelbine and estramustine phosphate.
Falsaperla M, Morgia G, Tartarone A, Ardito R, Romano G.
Operative Unit of Urology, Centro di Riferimento Oncologico della Basilicata, Rionero in Vulture, Potenza, Italy. mayurol@yahoo.it


7.    Multiple dietary antioxidants enhance the efficacy of standard and experimental cancer therapies and decrease their toxicity 
Prasad KN.
Center for Vitamin and Cancer Research, Department of Radiology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver 80262-0278, USA. kedar.prasad@uchsc.edu


FULL DOCUMENT can be downloaded at http://ict.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/3/4/310  or from this site (click here).