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Strawberry phytochemicals fight acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Posted Jul 10 2010 12:00am

ARS.USDA.gov - Certain phytochemicals naturally found in strawberries may come to have a role in fighting leukemia or other cancers, according to the work of molecular biologist Susan J. Zunino. Her tests with lab-cultured cells of a cancer known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia have provided additional evidence that three compounds occurring naturally in strawberries - ellagic acid, kaempferol, and quercetin - can cause death, or significant damage, to certain lines of these leukemia cells.

The polyphenol compounds’ modes of action vary, as does their effectiveness, Zunino and coresearchers found. Each strawberry component was extracted and purified and then tested separately in a succession of doses extending over a 72-hour period.

The scientists point out that several key questions still need to be answered. Among them: Are the compounds as effective in humans as they are in lab-cultured cells? How bioavailable are the phytochemicals - that is, what amounts do our bodies actually take up, and use, from the foods that we eat?

Zunino and her ARS colleagues collaborated in the studies with medical researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles and published their findings in the Journal of Functional Foods in 2009. ARS and the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission funded these studies involving ellagic acid, kaempferol, and quercetin.

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