Last month, Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically black college that sends more black students to medical school than any other college, announced exciting news: A study conducted in Xavier’s Ireland Lab shows that a “super cocktail” of six phytochemicals can kill BRCA1 mutated breast cancer cells and inhibit the growth of breast tumors.
This new development builds on previous research in the Ireland Lab that had been published in the Journal of Cancer in 2013. That research showed 100% killing of triple-negative breast cancer cells without adversely affecting noncancerous cells.
I spoke by e-mail with Dr. Shubha Ireland, a biology professor at Xavier and one of the chief researchers, to learn more.Dr. Shuba Ireland (Image: Xavier University)
- Is the “super cocktail” safe to take as a kind of “anti-cancer” supplement?
Yes, it is already being marketed as a dietary supplement—Breast Guard—and has been consumed by more than 700 women for more than two years with no reported adverse effects. Our work on the super cocktail is already showing its anti-cancer effects specifically on cancer cells but since it has not yet gone through clinical trials, an FDA requirement, it cannot be officially marketed as a drug. However, we can certainly say that it helps support breast health.
- Do the researchers envision a day when women like Angelina Jolie won’t need to undergo mastectomy, but could “prevent” breast cancer using this super cocktail?
Yes, indeed. We believe that our super cocktail does have preventative properties along with the ability to selectively kill cancer cells containing BRCA1 mutation, such as those in Ms. Jolie. Therefore, we foresee that women with this mutation can be helped by the use of our nutritional supplement one day (after we complete clinical trials), instead of undergoing the surgical removal of their breasts.
- What are phytochemicals?
These are compounds derived from fruits, herbs, and vegetables. Individually, they are known for their antioxidant, immune system boosting, and other “good for health” properties. Some are even known to have anti-cancer properties. However, for killing of 100% of cancer cells, they are needed in combinations and in concentrations that are … normally not found in our circulation. Our super cocktail is a result of detailed, carefully planned, experimental studies that have enabled us to determine the optimal concentration of each of these six components that act in a synergistic manner and show consistent killing of cancer cells, while leaving normal cells unharmed, at bioavailable/bioachievable levels.
- When will this be made available for purchase?
At present, it is available as a nutritional supplement through Protegene Corp. We have shown that it kills prostate cancer cells and lung cancer cells also, and we presented this research at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Washington, D.C. So anyone can take this product, men as well as women, as a health booster for general well-being.
- Who are your collaborators?
I collaborated with Dr. Madhwa Raj from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and Dr. Shailaja Raj from Protegene Corp. All of our collaborative scientific research studies will continue to be conducted in the Ireland lab at Xavier.
Xavier’s undergraduate students have an amazingly exciting biomedical research opportunity to participate in. In addition to learning tissue culture and state-of-the-art techniques and assays, Xavier students will benefit from this experience, particularly since so many of XU’s science students are pre-med or interested in biomedical careers or research.
Visit the Xavier website here.