Natural antioxidant bolsters cancer drug
Quercetin, a natural compound found in apples and certain other fruits, appears to boost the effects of a widely used chemotherapy drug. (Photo: iStockphoto)
If you eat an apple a day, as the old proverb advises, you're getting about 10 milligrams daily of a compound called quercetin. Now, an international
research team including a VA scientist has found that quercetin—a powerful antioxidant—extends the power of a widely used cancer drug, doxorubicin.
The drug, sold as Adriamycin, is a common ingredient in chemotherapy. A group from China teamed with Dr. Sherven Sharma, of VA and the University of
California, Los Angeles, to test the drug-nutrient combination on human liver cancer transplanted into mice.
Quercetin strengthened the drug's toxic effect on cancer cells. It also helped protect normal cells from being damaged by the drug. The team concluded that
"quercetin may be beneficial in a combined treatment with [doxorubicin] for increased therapeutic efficacy against liver cancer."
By the way, if you're eating fruits for the quercetin, make sure to eat the pigment-rich skin—that's where much of the quercetin is. And juice won't cut
it—a glass of apple juice has only a tenth of the quercetin found in a whole apple. Citrus fruits, grapes, red wine, berries, onions, and olives are also
good sources of the cancer-fighting nutrient. It is also available in supplement form, typically in much higher doses than can be obtained through foods
(PLoS One, 2012)