A new study published in the journal Pathology & Oncology Research shows that combination of blueberry extract and radiation therapy could enhance the effectiveness of cervical cancer treatment.

"For some cancers, such as late-stage cervical cancer, radiation is a good treatment option. However, collateral damage to healthy cells always occurs. Based on previous research, we studied blueberry extract to verify it could be used as a radiosensitizer," said lead author Yujiang Fang, a visiting professor at the MU School of Medicine.

Radiosensitizers are non-toxic chemicals that make cancer cells more responsive to radiation therapy. In a previous study, Fang and his research team showed that resveratrol, a compound in red grapes, could be used as a radiosensitizer for treating prostate cancer. Blueberries also contain resveratrol.

"In addition to resveratrol, blueberries also contain flavonoids," said Fang. "Flavonoids are chemicals that may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties."

The researchers used human cervical cancer cell lines and were divided into four groups that included a control group, a group that received only radiation, a group that received only blueberry extract, and a group that received both radiation and the extract.

"Radiation decreased cancer cells by approximately 20%. Interestingly, the cell group that received only blueberry extract had a 25% decrease in cancer. However, the biggest decline in cancer cells occurred in the radiation and extract group, with a decrease of about 70%," Fang explained.

Fang explained that the mechanism that makes blueberry extract a radio-sensitizer also reduces the abnormal explosion of cell growth? which is what cancer is.

"Cancer cells avoid death by remodeling themselves," Fang said. "Along with reducing cell proliferation, the extract also 'tricks' cancer cells into dying. So it inhibits the birth and promotes the death of cancer cells."

"Blueberries are very common and found all over the world," Fang said. "They are readily accessible and inexpensive. As a natural treatment option for boosting the effectiveness of existing therapies, I feel they would be enthusiastically accepted."