"Pomegranate is high in antioxidants, and there is good evidence that inflammation plays an important role in prostate cancer," he said.
Dr. Pantuck and his colleagues detected a 23 percent increase in nitric oxide sera content from patients after they began their daily pomegranate regimen. These studies were conducted in the UCLA laboratory of Louis Ignarro, Ph.D., the Nobel laureate who contributed key scientific findings to define the role of nitric oxide in health and disease.
As with vitamin C and other antioxidants, ellagic acid a primary antioxidant in pomegranate juice works to quench molecules that oxidate, or add oxygen, to cellular and circulatory proteins and fats, altering their biological function.
"By quenching oxidative species with antioxidants, you are basically preserving circulating nitric oxide, so it can have a greater biologic effect," Dr. Pantuck said. "By decreasing the amount of free radicals, you are probably decreasing the circulating factors that are destroying nitric oxide."
While their findings on nitric oxide, cell proliferation and apoptosis served as exploratory endpoints, Dr. Pantuck stressed that clinical trials with more precise design are necessary to confirm the biological role the fruit plays in prolonging or preventing recurrence of prostate cancer in men.
"We don't believe we are curing anyone from prostate cancer," he said.
"In our initial trial, although a third of patients experienced a decrease in their PSA during the study, nobody's PSA went to zero.
"The PSA doubling time, however, was longer. For many men, this may extend the years after surgery or radiation that they remain recurrence free and their life expectancy is extended. They may be able to prevent the need to undergo additional therapies, such as radiation, hormonal or chemotherapies."