We’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what research articles really mean. Sometimes words that are common in the world of science are like a foreign language to us. With that, we want to start helping others understand all this great research too. Firstly, we have started our own glossary, defined by our staff, that will help make sense out of some of the words you will see in papers and on this blog. Secondly, we have started a new series of posts where we take an in-depth look at research and help translate it.
Today we wanted to share a paper published in August 2012 about a study that used freeze-dried black raspberry powder to investigate the cancer-fighting benefits of anthocyanins. Let’s take some time to understand what some of the key phrases and concepts actually mean, and hopefully things will make a little more sense.
Abstract link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.
The main focus of this study was actually on black raspberry powder’s effects on key biomarkers that indicate cancer growth inhibition. The biomarker being measured, in this case, are some specific cytokines that play key roles in numerous cell activities. What scientists were trying to figure out is an easy metric (biomarker) for measuring the efficacy of any particular treatment on tissue affected by cancer. Luckily for us the scientists provided some great data on black raspberries too!
Starting off, scientists wanted to define what anti-cancer variables they wanted to measure during the study. The list given in the paper goes something like this:
For this experiment, they compared normal tissue to samples of adenocarcinoma in colon cancer from each patient. The desired result would be for the cancerous tissue to have more cell death, less cell growth, and less blood vessel growth compared to the normal tissue. This would be an indication that the compounds in black raspberries were killing off and/or inhibiting the growth of cancerous tissue.
This is where black raspberries come in. Scientists mixed twenty grams of freeze-dried black raspberry powder with water to create a slurry, and had patients consume this thick drink three times a day for up to nine weeks. This is what gets everyone at Black Raspberry Buzz excited, because there was very distinct trend of beneficial effects on the cancerous tissue.
To get good biomarker data, researchers needed to pick a safe, but effective way to improve the health of tissue affected by cancer. It is very telling that black raspberry powder was chosen to accomplish this.
So what’s with those plasma cytokines mentioned in the title? Well, measuring substances in plasma is much easier and much less invasive than trying to get tissue samples all the time, especially with a disease like colorectal cancer. The scientists came to the conclusion that the levels of plasma cytokines do correlate with how successful the treatment is at managing the three key anti-cancer variables focused on in the study.