Beehive Extract Might Arrest Prostate Cancer

Researchers are continually looking for ways to cure and/or treat prostate and other cancers. And it seems that answers keep cropping up in unexpected places. One of the most unexpected recent discoveries is that bees might actually play a key role in slowing prostate cancer.

It’s all about caffeic acid phenethyl ester, or CAPE, a compound isolated from honeybee hive propolis, which is the resin-like substance that bees use to fix holes in hives.

For centuries, propolis has been used as a natural remedy to treat a wide variety of conditions—from sore throats and allergies to burns and cancer. But there has been no solid scientific evidence that propolis has any real effects—until now. Researchers at the University of Chicago combined traditional cancer research methods with cutting-edge proteomics and found that CAPE arrests early-stage prostate cancer by closing down the tumor cells’ system for detecting sources of nutrition. The research was published in Cancer Prevention Research.

“It appears that CAPE basically stops the ability of prostate cancer cells to sense that there’s nutrition available,” says Richard B. Jones, assistant professor in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research and Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology and lead author of the study. “They stop all of the molecular signatures that would suggest that nutrition exists, and the cells no longer have that proliferative response to nutrition.”

After testing anti-cancer properties of CAPE on a series of cancer cell lines, Jones and his team found that CAPE successfully slowed the proliferation of cultured cells isolated from human prostate tumors. CAPE was also effective in arresting the growth of human prostate tumors grafted into mice. In just six weeks of treatment, tumor volume growth rate decreased by half, but shot up to the original rate when CAPE treatment was halted.

“If you feed CAPE to mice daily, their tumors will stop growing. After several weeks, if you stop the treatment, the tumors will begin to grow again at their original pace,” says Richard B. Jones, assistant professor in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research and Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology and senior author of the study. So it doesn’t kill the cancer, but it basically will indefinitely stop prostate cancer proliferation.”

Natural remedies usually get a bad rep, because they are based on vague antioxidant and anti-inflammatory claims that not everyone is buying into. Ginseng and green tea are two common examples of substances that are tested in laboratories, but no satisfying evidence has been collected to back their medicinal properties.

Jones explained, “It’s only recently that people have examined the mechanism by which some of these herbal remedies work. Our knowledge about what these things are actually doing is a bit of a disconnected hodge-podge of tests and labs and conditions. In the end, you’re left with a broad, disconnected story about what exactly these things are doing and whether or not they would be useful for treating disease.”

Researchers believe that CAPE’s effectiveness is in freezing cancer cell proliferation might work very well in conjunction with chemotherapy intended to kill cancer cells. However, there’s still plenty of research to be done before CAPE becomes a standard treatment for any kind of cancer.

We’ll follow this story and will update you as we find out more.

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