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Black raspberry, breast cancer drug might thwart oral cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Researchers are working on a new way to treat oral cancer with black raspberries

Researchers from Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science have been looking for new ways to stop oral cancers. In promising treatment, they've unexpectedly found raspberries and an older breast cancer drug can stop cancer of the mouth and oral cavity.

Dr. Susan Mallery, a professor in the College of Dentistry at The Ohio State University and Oral Pathology Consultant at the Ohio State University and James Cancer hospitals, has been working on ways to stop deadly oral cancer from developing for almost 3 decades.

According to Mallery, lesions that occur in the oral cavity can unpredictably progress to cancer.

Mallery first found black raspberry gel that contains powerful antioxidants. Studies showed the black raspberry gel applied to the mouth can lower the chances that cancer will recur after surgical excision.

Mallery also wanted to find a way to help patients avoid surgery altogether, so she began to investigate a breast cancer drug that had been around for decades.

The drug, fenretinide, had previously been shown to cut off blood supply to oral tumors by boosting immune function. Despite clinical evidence, the drug was never developed for mouth and oral cavity cancer treatment.

“The discrepancy between the established efficacy of fenretinide in other cancer types and in oral cancer was puzzling. Then it occurred to me that maybe the structure of the oral mucosa wasn’t allowing a therapeutic amount to reach the lesions, even at high doses,” says Mallery. “We knew we needed to come up with a way to deliver the therapy directly to the lesion.”

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Mallery teamed up with Drs. Stephen Schwendeman and Kashappa Goud Desai and two Ohio State investigators Drs. Gary Stoner and Peter Larsen to develop a patch that sticks in the mouth to deliver a dose of fenretinide directly on cancerous lesions.

To prevent oral cancer, Mallery suggests getting the HPV vaccine (women and men), avoid tobacco – especially in combination with alcohol – eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, visit your dentist once a year and have a check-up if a mouth sore doesn’t heal in 14 days.

In the meantime, the team plans clinical trials using black raspberry gel and the breast cancer drug combined to prevent and treat cancer of the oral cavity.

“If we can effectively treat the lesions with the patch, and then prevent more from coming back, we will completely change – and improve upon – the way oral cancer is currently treated,” said Mallery.

The hope is to develop the patch to help patients avoid surgery. Black raspberry gel could help stop oral cancer from returning, which happens in one-third of cases.

Ohio State University
Center for Translational and Clinical Sciences
"Preventive Topical Gel for Premalignant Lesions"

Kashappa-Goud H. Desai, Susan R. Mallery, et al.
Pharmaceutical Research
DOI: 10.1007/s11095-011-0489-3
"Development and In Vitro-In Vivo Evaluation of Fenretinide-Loaded Oral Mucoadhesive Patches for Site-Specific Chemoprevention of Oral Cancer"
June, 2011

Image credit: Wikimedia commons