What is Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC)?
A subtype of breast cancer that does not express the genes for estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR) or Her2/neu. It is clinically characterised as more aggressive and less responsive to standard treatment and is associated with poorer overall patient prognosis. It is diagnosed more frequently in younger women, women with BRCA1 mutations, those belonging to African-American and Hispanic ethnic groups, and those having a recent birth.
How blueberries treat TNBC?
The report, published in the October issue of The Journal of Nutrition, links the consumption of whole blueberry powder with the shrinking of one aggressive form of breast cancer, triple negative breast cancer.
Dr. Shiuan Chen, senior author of the publication, said, “We searched fruits with the ability to suppress the proliferation and migration of triple-negative breast cancer cells. Blueberries were found to have such properties.”
What that means is relatively high doses of blueberry powder in mice, the equivalent of 2 cups of blueberries a day for an adult woman, reduced the tumor size by 60 percent to 75 percent. That amount of blueberries, while a lot, was nontoxic and not enough to cause weight gain or other ill effects in the mice.
The study checked two levels of blueberry powder in the diet, 5 percent and 10 percent. And the mice consuming 5 percent had the best results. Researchers say this suggests there is an optimum amount of blueberries that should be consumed to help shrink tumors and prevent triple negative breast cancer from metastasizing, or spreading to other areas of the body.
The specifics of how the blueberries work to fight the aggressive cancer are still unclear, though researchers believe it is related to the phytochemicals that suppress the spread of cancer cells.
“We hope to evaluate in humans. We are working on funding and need to identify the proper patient population for the clinical trial. The laboratory findings are exciting, but further studies, especially clinical trials, are needed to confirm the observation before we can make a recommendation for human consumption. Our studies suggest that blueberries contain phytochemicals with anticancer properties. However, we do advise everyone to consume a diet with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables for overall health,” said Chen.