NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Researchers at Xavier and LSU could be on to something big: a recipe that attacks breast cancer cells. An LSU professor came up with the natural mix of antioxidants years ago, and now Xavier researchers look into whether it could work in other cancers.
"We came on just at the point with all the exciting work," said Dr. Shubha Ireland chairwoman of the biology department at Xavier.
For the past couple of years, students in her lab have been researching a breakthrough concoction to kill cancer cells. It's called a super cocktail.
"This cocktail is made up of six components and all of the six components are found in fruits and vegetables and algae. So, to begin with, it's natural," she said.
LSU professor Dr. Madhwa Raj came up with the idea of the super cocktail more than a decade ago, believing you are what you eat. He and his wife, gynecologist Dr. Shailaja Raj, teamed up to put antioxidants found in super foods to work against cancer.
"All the colors and vegetables we eat from have anthocyanins and polyphenols and are anti-cancerous," Dr. Raj said.
The couple searched for the perfect ingredients.
"When we started in 2012, we screened a lot of compounds and chose six of these considering the variety of actions they have," he said. "If we put all six together, they should be able to kill the cancer cells. It's like a sledgehammer. There's no way to get around it. One from broccoli, one from apple and strawberry peel, one from tofu, and red grapes have resveratrol that is in red wine."
LSU researchers treated human breast cancer cells with the cocktail in a Petri dish. They said before treatment, cells grew, forming a cobblestone pattern and attached to each other. After 24 hours with the cocktail added, cells were separating and contracting. Two days later, the cells were crinkled and appeared to be dying. Normal cells were not affected. Xavier researchers took those results and went further.
"It's effective against three types of breast cancer. One is hormone sensitive. One is triple negative, and the other is in the news at lot. It's the BRCA1 mutation that Angelina Jolie and several other personalities have had mastectomies for that," Ireland said.
The science behind the super cocktail is part of course work-based research at Xavier, and it's hands on for students.
"We want to conclusively show this super cocktail can affect bad genes and bad pathways, so if the cancer does go into remission, it's cured. Not just breast cancer, but other cancers as well," she said.
Ireland said their studies also show results in prostate cancer. The next goal: clinical trials.
"It will take about two years, but also it's very expensive," Dr. Raj said. "It will cost upwards of a million dollars to do a randomized double-blind clinical trial. We are trying to get funding going to do it," Raj said.
There is a long road ahead, but Raj and Dr. Shailaja Raj have put the super cocktail into something that's usable now.
"The Breast Safeguard tablet has the same cocktail we are working on. The same ingredients. We are calling it a nutritional supplement," Ireland said. "Women who have breast cancer and those who don't, as well as men, are taking it for general wellness,"
Women like Jane Fandrich, diagnosed with stage one breast cancer last year. She read about the product and has been taking it twice a day for about a month. She said it has no side effects. There are no guarantees it will keep her cancer at bay, but for her, it's hope in a bottle.