Researchers at the University of Illinois have discovered that natural chemicals called apigenin and luteolin found in certain vegetables kill human pancreatic cancer cells. These substance inhibit the action of an enzyme that the cancer cells need to survive.
The chemicals, classified as flavonoids, are found in celery, artichokes and some herbs.
“Apigenin alone induced cell death in two aggressive human pancreatic cancer cell lines. But we received the best results when we pre-treated cancer cells with apigenin for 24 hours, then applied the chemotherapeutic drug gemcitabine for 36 hours,” says researcher Elvira de Mejia.
Pancreatic cancer is very aggressive. It produces few early symptoms and often spreads before it is diagnosed. It is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths, with a five-year survival rate of only 6 percent, she said.
The researchers demonstrated that apigenin inhibits an enzyme called glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β). The inhibition decreases the production of anti-apoptotic genes in the pancreatic cancer cells. (Apoptosis means that cancer cells self-destruct.)