Foods fighting prostate cancer

  • 1

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Bread that can prevent cancer, candy to treat oral cancer; researchers are literally cooking up some super-charged versions of our favorite foods to try to prevent or treat some of the most deadly cancers.

From space, to your dinner table, Food Scientist Yael Vodovotz is working to make food powerful enough to prevent and treat some cancers. At NASA she developed food for a possible mission to mars. Now, she’s creating bread, packed with soy and almond that may bring PSA levels down in men with prostate cancer.

“We looked at a group of compounds called isoflavens which are in soy,” Yael Vodovotz, Ph.D., Professor at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio told Ivanhoe.

Researchers say isoflavones may prevent cancer and the almonds have an enzyme that makes it easier for you to absorb them. 40 men with prostate cancer, including Gordon Renkes, ate the bread three times a day for eight weeks.

“I could never tell that there was anything different about the bread,” Prostate Cancer Patient, Gordon Renkes, told Ivanhoe.

But researchers could tell that it had an interesting effect.

“What we did see was in 65% of the men in the study there was either a decrease or leveling of the PSA,” Doctor Vodovotz said.

Gordon included. While the findings aren’t conclusive, Gordon’s not giving up his bread.

“Eating something to help slow down the progress of a disease is one of the good ways to do it,” Renkes said.

Doctor Vodovotz hopes those foods will help treat oral and esophageal cancers. When it came to the almond-soy bread, the team was researching how to get food to better absorb, when it made the observation about the PSA levels.

Yael Vodovotz, PhD, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at The Ohio State University, talks about some foods that could help people fight prostate cancer.  

What is your specialty?  

Dr. Vodovotz: My specialty is food chemistry especially physical chemistry.

For the past several years you have been working on foods that have more than a nutritional benefit; is that correct?

Dr. Vodovotz: Yes, these foods are in fact foods that provide nutrition, addition to the norm. Mostly we have designed some of these foods for the last stage of testing, which are human clinical trials. A lot of what we do here is we formulate the foods for a particular disease. We get a lot of our data from the medical school and the Cancer Center, where they have either cellular or animal models with some particular chemical in the food that has a potential in prevention or treatment of a disease. We then try to make sure that chemical is incorporated in the food as part of a natural food ingredient. Then you need to translate it into a clinical trial, which many times require those foods too, instead of just 2 or 3 of them you need thousands. So we need to scale up our production and we can either do that here in the department, we have a facility to do that; we can incorporate the food industry to help us out to just do these particular foods in enough quantity to help us with a clinical trial.

Could food someday replace medicine all together? 

Dr. Vodovotz: I do not know if it could do that. I would hope that it definitely helps and so we call a lot of our foods adjuvant therapy; something that can help along. So maybe ameliorate, or help with some of the symptoms that go along with a disease or even be part of the prevention and cure. Help by itself, I am not one of those to promote just eat the right foods and you will not ever need anything, although an apple a day is a great thing, but it definitely can help and especially in prevention, I do believe that the dietary components can play a very critical role in preventing a disease or at least making those symptoms less.

We are talking about two particular foods and both of these foods are targeted at prostate cancer, why is that? Is it?    

Dr. Vodovotz: Prostate cancer is a prevalent cancer in men, of course second largest cancer. This is a cancer that is late in stage and so there are a lot of different points where you can intervene in the cancer especially in the prevention side. It makes it an ideal cancer to study in particular parts of these foods. So the two foods are we look at are soy and black raspberries; two different, very different food sources, but both seem to have some, have shown, and again in animal, preclinical studies, that they may have some benefit.

To go back to the prostate cancer, a lot of doctors will say you will die with it, not of it; is that one of the reasons, it is a good cancer to study as well?

Dr. Vodovotz: Prostate cancer, you would think it is one disease, but it is actually a series of diseases and so there are different interventions that can happen in each one of those diseases. It is also a way of life for many men and so if we can prevent some of the symptoms, if we can help with any part of that cancer, that is I think already a great progress forward.

What is special about soy and black raspberries?  

Dr. Vodovotz: Soy contains a particular set of chemicals. They actually have many different nutrients in them that can potentially help with various diseases, but for prostate we looked at a group of compounds called isoflavones, which are in soy. They have been shown in preclinical trials and in some clinical trials to be very beneficial in prostate cancer. The problem has always been that the food that has been given, say for example, as the source of soy, being controlled well enough to be able to make a true hypothesis about how these isoflavones work; if their chemical form is different? Is it the food that was the issue or was it the chemical? So we had a series of questions about soy that we wanted to answer. We were very fortunate to do this trial with two different types of soy breads; one was a traditional, one of our traditional soy breads, high level of soy, so the chemicals in there were in a particular form. Now, with the same amount of chemicals, but in different bread that had almond, we changed the form of those chemicals. So actually the breads were the same; it is just the chemicals from soy were different inside. And so now we can test a hypothesis of which one of these potentially maybe better absorbed is really the question.

What did you find?

Dr. Vodovotz: We found that there was a slight difference in absorption. In the almond, they absorbed faster than in the soy bread. However, we looked at things that other studies have not; and those are the consequences of eating these soy containing compounds. They are then metabolized in your body; and these metabolites that are excreted in the urine, etc. those are very different depending on which soy bread you start with and those metabolites potentially are actually more active than the original compounds. So absorption was important, metabolite formation was important; so it was a very comprehensive study looking at how soy interacts with prostate cancer patients.

So, really this bread is just kind exaggerating what is already in soy a little bit? There is no medicine?

Dr. Vodovotz: There is no medicine in this bread. It is just a high soy containing bread, highly acceptable. We can tomorrow take this bread and we have put it in the market and people buy it, they enjoy it for being a bread; they do not really care that it has soy in it. Some people are more apt to buy it, because it is high protein rather than it has the isoflavones in it, so it is really a very easy tradeoff, which is one of the things we are very particular about in our functional foods when we actually formulate these, is that, it would not be something that you would need to put specially in a diet. This should be something that naturally happens that you are already eating and you are just going to tradeoff for something that is more nutritious for you.

Can you take the isoflavones that you have in this bread and basically put it in any bread? So that every time you are getting bread, you are automatically fighting cancer? 

Dr. Vodovotz: Not quite that easy, because we are not exactly sure that a lot of the things that happen by consuming the soy bread came just from the isoflavones. It could be the protein that is in the soy. It could be some of the others, there are other compounds called saponins. There are a bunch of other compounds in there that potentially have effect as well. One thing that we definitely made sure was that the entire soy was in there. So, you can call it wholesomeness, but it is the entire soy which is unlike some of the other studies as well that have used just portions of the soy. So then you do not know potentially if you could have done better by having the entire soy in there. So that is the difference. Yes you can then take the soy ingredients and put it in other bakery products which we have done. We have done it in pretzels, in pizza crust, and many other things, but it is the ideal of the entire soy that is in there.

Would this bread be more helpful to prevent or to help treat? How does it help treat?

Dr. Vodovotz: That is a very difficult question, because the study was not designed as a treatment; it was not even designed as a long-term prevention.  The entire span of the study was six months, which is long for a human clinical trial, but it is not enough for us to say some of those conclusions. We did find some very interesting changes in the PSA, which is the Prostate-Specific Antigen, but again the cohort or the number of people in the study was very small to make any kind of conclusions. This is a great basis for the next study that hopefully will be larger. We did get a new NIH study to look at the immunology impact of this bread and we will be doing that very soon, I think that it is too early to tell in any of that. It shows some very good promise, but I would not go off and say it is preventative or curative in anyway. It just has some very interesting facts when you eat them in these patients.

What did you see in PSA levels?  

Dr. Vodovotz: In the ones in this study it does not have statistical power to make a true conclusion, but what we did see was in 65% of the men in the study there was a either decrease or a leveling of the PSA doubling time. As soon as they went off the study, it started increasing again. It seemed to have an interesting effect, but again, very early on and not enough at all to make any kind of true conclusion.

Tell me about the raspberries. 

Dr. Vodovotz: So the black raspberries, now the black raspberries have been studied at OSU for many years. I think we are the leading institution of studying black raspberry and cancer, especially oral and esophageal cancer. All of the studies that have been done at OSU were using powered black raspberry which, the entire fruit is dried, freeze dried, and you have got this powder that is entire black raspberry fruit. What they used to do is put it in gels and put it in water and just sort of look at the human response, we said well it is a food; it needs to come into something a little more interesting than just some powder. We formulated two different products, one is a confection or a candy and the other is a nectar, which is a bit thicker than a juice. The idea here is you have two different forms; one is more solid and one is more liquid and to see if one is better than the other when consumed. The human trial that we recently finished was in prostate cancer patients; they consume either the nectar or the confections and so these are men that have prostate cancer, they were scheduled for surgery for prostatectomy and during those 3 to 4 weeks while they waited for their surgery date, they consume the product. Again, the main thing we are were looking for was how well absorbed were some of the chemicals from the black raspberry and we were very lucky enough at the end to have the prostate cancer tissue that we can then look at as well as how well the compounds were absorbed into the tissue. So this is more of absorption; we are not looking at any biomarker changes at this point, but just sort of a preliminary, see how things look.

Now is there any reason why the soy and the black raspberry could not help other diseases?

Dr. Vodovotz: No, not at all, in fact, the black raspberries confections will be used to assess the absorption into some of the cells that are in your mouth. Again, with absorption, the idea there is that if there was a tumor would it get absorbed in there or not? However, right now it is in healthy individuals and for this upcoming study we formulated three different types of confections, a hard candy and two softer candies with the idea that the chemicals in there, the naturally occurring chemicals are released in different rates. Just like you would in a pharmaceutical drug if it is a gel tab versus a starch based, it releases differently and does that impact health. We do not know. Does it mean that it is better or worse? Does it matter if the rate of release of these chemicals in the mouth differ?  

When you are making a confection to deal with prostate cancer, do you have to make it differently than what you do with the oral? Are there chemical changes in both? Are we going to go to the pharmacy one day and there is going to be hard candy for oral cancer, and hard candy for prostate cancer?  

Dr. Vodovotz: They are not really different. The only difference in the prostate cancer trial, we actually coated the confections with a non-chocolate, candy coating.  It looks like chocolate, but it is not.  It is a candy coating just because the confections bleed through.  It is very concentrated and your hands get purple if you hold them; and so just for ease of the patients. In the oral one, we did not because we really want to see how some of the release happens and once you coat something, it is not quite as easy. So that really is the main difference except for the fact that in the oral one, we have different forms of the confection. In the prostate, there is only one form. 

So there are just some foods out there that have been studied and are known to help cancer. You have soy; black raspberries are there any others out there that you are looking at?   

Dr. Vodovotz: Yes. Dr. Clinton and Dr. Schwartz have been looking at cruciferous vegetables, such as, broccoli and in that family. We have looked at tomato. Tomato is huge here in Ohio and we have looked at lycopene and some of the other compounds in tomato; formulated a soy tomato juice. We combined some of the soy and tomato. That was also given in the prostate cancer trial. We’re seeing some very interesting benefits. So, there are quite a few different foods.

So like with tomato, we know that it is healthy, but if this ever became a food to help prevent or treat something, it is just not the tomato out of your garden… it has to be chemically altered?

Dr. Vodovotz: Not really. I mean the ones that we have used in some of these trials have been genetically modified; we have worked with a horticulture and crop department here to change it a little bit. There are some tomatoes that have higher lycopene, that is a molecule that is in there; and it could be in a little different form; so you have the orange or yellow tinged tomatoes and those are a different form of lycopene than the very bright red. Or you can increase the compound in there. So, those, you can work with you can also just get. What Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Clinton’s group found out is that processed tomato is actually better for you. So sauce and juice is better than the whole tomato, because it is broken up and it releases this chemical.

It is kind of funny because you always think once you cook something you are losing something out of it.

Dr. Vodovotz: There is always a trade-off. There are some things that are lost. A pizza is actually a good source of the tomato as long as there is enough tomato sauce on it. That is definitely one way of doing it, is to alter some things, but you do not have to.

Perfect. Anything we are missing? 

Dr. Vodovotz: I think I should just say that one of the main benefits of using a food product in some of these clinical trials especially the lengthy ones is the compliance, or the patients actually eating what you want, is usually very high if the products are very good and we have always had above 95% compliance in our studies, so we work very hard to make sure the food of high quality; so most people can enjoy them which is very important when you are translating that out to the public. 

This information is intended for additional research purposes only. It is not to be used as a prescription or advice from Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc. or any medical professional interviewed. Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc. assumes no responsibility for the depth or accuracy of physician statements. Procedures or medicines apply to different people and medical factors; always consult your physician on medical matters.