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Citrus shows promise for certain childhood cancer

COLLEGE STATION Orange juice and cancer don't mix. In fact, the popular citrus drink could become a cocktail to prevent or stop the deadly disease in humans.

Research by Texas Agriculture Experiment Station scientists has shown that citrus compounds called limonoids targeted and stopped neuroblastoma cells in the lab. They now hope to learn the reasons for the stop-action behavior and eventually try the citrus concoction in humans.

Neuroblastomas account for about 10 percent of all cancer in children, Harris said, and is usually a solid tumor in the neck, chest, spinal cord or adrenal gland. The finding in citrus is promising not only for its potential to arrest cancer, but because limonoids induce no side affects, according to Dr. Ed Harris, Experiment Station biochemist who collaborated on the study with Dr. Bhimu Patil, a plant physiologist at the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center in Weslaco.

"Limonoids are naturally occurring compounds," Harris said. "Unlike other anti-cancer drugs that are toxic, limonoids apparently do not hurt a person. That's the beautiful potential."

Patil calls citrus fruit "a vast reservoir of anti-carcinogens." As a plant physiologist, he has succeeded in isolating and purifying a number of limonoids from citrus so that the biochemists could evaluate and compare their anti-cancer abilities at the molecular level.

"Limonoids are unique to citrus," Patil said. "They are not present in any other fruits or vegetables. My goal is to find the direct benefits of citrus on human health. "

He said a challenging task is to isolate the limonoid compounds, "because some are present in very small concentrations."

In fact, citrus breeders seeking to improve the fruit's tastiness for consumers and yield for producers led researchers to discover limonoids eight of which have been characterized from extractions at the Weslaco facility, according to t
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Contact: Kathleen Phillips
ka-phillips@tamu.edu
979-845-2872
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
30-Nov-2004


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