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Of rats, prostate cancer, and tomato paste

Posted Sep 29 2008 4:45pm

A study published in the June 1 issue of Cancer Research  implies that “the form of tomato product one eats could be the key to unlocking its prostate cancer-fighting potential.” Well maybe, if you happen to be a lab rat! The protective effect of tomato products against prostate cancer has been suggested over and over again, but there is still no evidence of any actual effect in man!

The researchers divided their rats into groups of 20 and fed them a control diet or a diet that included tomato paste, tomato powder or tomato paste plus additional FruHis. All animals were then injected with prostate cancer-causing chemicals.

Animals fed the tomato paste plus FruHis diet had the longest survival from cancer at 51 weeks compared with 50 weeks in the tomato powder group, 45 weeks in the tomato paste alone group and 40 weeks in the control group. On post-mortem exam, prostate tumors were found in 10 percent of the rats that had been given a combination of tomato paste and FruHis, compared with 30 percent of animals in the tomato powder group, 25 percent in the tomato paste alone group and 60 percent in the control group.

While this is all very well and good, the probability of these data being replicated in man, based on evidence from other comparable trials, is extremely limited. Even the lead investigator cautioned against drawing broad conclusions from this animal study, stating that, “the result may introduce an additional intrigue into an ongoing dispute over the beneficial effects of dietary lycopene and tomato products in lowering the risk of prostate cancer.”  He went on to say that, “Human trials are certainly warranted.”

Would this be human trials in men with a particular stage and grade of prostate cancer or are we back to the idea that this particular form of tomato extract should be used preventively? Either way, it will take about a decade to demonstrate any sort of meaningful result (assuming the possibility that there is one).

Filed under: Drugs in development, Living with Prostate Cancer, Prevention, Treatment

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