More than 40 plant-based compounds can turn on genes that slow the spread of cancer, according to a first-of-its-kind study by a Washington State University (WSU) researcher. Dr. Gary Meadows, WSU professor and associate dean for graduate education and scholarship in the College of Pharmacy, says he is encouraged by his findings because the spread of cancer is most often what makes the disease fatal. Moreover, says Dr. Meadows, diet, nutrients, and plant-based chemicals appear to be opening many avenues of attack. "We're always looking for a magic bullet," he says. "Well, there are lots of magic bullets out there in what we eat and associated with our lifestyle. We just need to take advantage of those. And they can work together." Dr. Meadows started the study, published in the June 2012 issue of Cancer and Metastasis Reviews, with some simple logic: Most research focuses on the prevention of cancer or the treatment of the original cancer tumor, but it's usually the cancer's spread to nearby organs that kills you. So rather than attack the tumor, said Dr. Meadows, let's control its spread, or metastasis. He focused in particular on genes that suppress metastasis. As search engine terms go, it took him down many a wormhole in the PubMed research database, as the concept of nutrients and metastasis suppressor genes is rarely identified by journals. It's even an afterthought of some of the researchers who find the genes. "People for the most part did not set out in their research goals to study metastasis suppressor genes," says Dr. Meadows. "It was just a gene that was among many other genes that they had looked at in their study." But Dr. Meadows took the studies and looked to see when metastasis suppressor genes were on or off, even if original authors didn't make the connection.
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