More research shows that pomegranate extract may fight breast cancer

Robyn Boyle, RPh, for MDLinx | December 05, 2017

Pomegranate juice is already known to have activity against metastasis of breast cancer and prostate cancer,1 but now scientists from the Cancer Research Center at the University at Albany, SUNY, Rensselaer, NY, have reported that pomegranate extract (PE) has the ability to change characteristics of breast cancer stem cells (CSCs) and inhibit cell growth and differentiation.2 The findings were published in Nutrition and Cancer.


The authors suggest dietary or pharmacologic pomegranate extract could reduce tumor progression at early stages or prevent tumor recurrence at advanced stages.

The authors explained that CSCs have been identified in various tumors, including breast cancers, and have become an important target in prevention and treatment of cancer. They are responsible for initiation and progression of tumors, therapeutic resistance, and disease recurrence.

Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a key process in generating CSCs and maintaining their characteristics. However, not all cells that have undergone EMT are the same, leading scientists to postulate that other mechanisms may exist.

Investigators examined several ways that PE could modulate characteristics of breast CSCs that lead to inhibition of EMT, including the effects of PE on mammosphere formation and serial passaging, mammosphere differentiation, cell migration, cellular detachment, and gene expression.

The results showed that PE altered the ability to form mammospheres, reduced cell migration, downregulated genes involved in EMT, and suppressed CSC characteristics by inhibiting EMT.

Although this has not been tested in a clinical setting, the authors suggest that PE, either by dietary or pharmacologic sources, could reduce tumor progression at early stages or prevent tumor recurrence at advanced stages.

“This warrants further investigations of anti-CSC effects of pomegranate phytochemicals in different experimental paradigms, including animal models for breast cancer and/or clinical trials,” the investigators concluded. “To date, no clinical trials with PE have been conducted for breast cancer, but clinical trials in prostate cancer patients showed that PE is well tolerated and thus may be appropriate for long-term cancer intervention.”

To read more about this study, click here


  1. Rocha A, et al. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012; 136(3):647-58.
  2. Nallanthighal S, et al. Nutrition and Cancer. 2017; 69(7):1088-1098.