Olive Oil For HER2+ Breast Cancer
I got really excited recently when I read that oncology researchers have reported that extra-virgin olive oil is an effective anti-cancer fighter against an aggressive form of breast cancer, HER2 breast cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, “HER2-positive breast cancer is a breast cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which promotes the growth of cancer cells. In about 1 of every 5 breast cancers, the cancer cells make an excess of HER2 due to a gene mutation. This gene mutation and the elevated levels of HER2 that it causes can occur in many types of cancer — not only breast cancer…..HER2-positive breast cancers tend to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer. They’re also less responsive to hormone treatment.”
HER2 positive breast cancer is one of the most frightening breast cancers to deal with and the drug which is typically used to treat it – Herceptin – is very expensive. So the news that phytochemicals in extra-virgin olive oil – an affordable, easily obtainable and harmless food – can shrink certain breast tumors should give hope to many.
The extra-virgin olive oil study was performed at the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Girona, Spain, and reported in the open-access journal BMC Cancer. It focused on tumor tissue in laboratory culture that the researchers exposed to different fractions of extra-virgin olive oil containing various natural phytochemicals. When rats with induced breast cancers were fed large amounts of extra-virgin olive oil, their tumors’ malignancy diminished.
“Our findings reveal for the first time that all the major complex phenols present in extra-virgin olive oil drastically suppress overexpression of the cancer gene HER2 in human breast cancer cells,” said Javier Menendez, who, along with Antonio Segura-Carretero from Spain’s University of Granada, led the team of researchers who determined to investigate which parts of extra-virgin olive oil battle cancer best.
Some past studies have suggested that the olive-oil-rich Mediterranean diet prevents cancer, while other studies have not. So the Spanish scientists theorized that olive oil compounds kill only certain forms of breast cancer. Their research found that the olive-oil polyphenols known as secoiridoids and lignans are highly effective breast-cancer-cell fighters – but only against the 20 percent to 30 percent of breast cancers that express the so-called HER2 gene.
Extra-virgin olive oil comes from pressing olives in a cold state – without the use of heat or chemicals. It contains natural complex anti-cancer chemicals that the industrial refining process destroys. So will eating large quantities of such olive oil actually prevent or cure breast cancer? Sadly, the authors note that “The active phytochemicals exhibited tumoricidal effects against cultured breast cancer cells at concentrations that are unlikely to be achieved in real life by consuming olive oil.”
Still, the scientists say, “These findings, together with the fact that that humans have safely been ingesting significant amounts of lignans and secoiridoids as long as they have been consuming olives and extra-virgin oil, strongly suggest that these polyphenols might provide an excellent and safe platform for the design of new anti breast-cancer drugs.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m still going to add more extra-virgin olive oil to my salads.