By MATTHEW WEAVER
A Florida cancer researcher says fermented wheat germ extract may help kill some forms of cancer cells.
The Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., has been studying the extract, Avemar, which was developed in Hungary.
The extract is produced by extracting wheat germ from flour, fermenting it and creating a powder, which is added to juice or water.
Patricia Judson, associate member in gynecologic oncology in the center's department of women's oncology, said one of her patients was doing well while not using any other medication.
When Judson asked why, the patient told her about the extract. Judson gave it to several other patients, who also had positive responses.
Judson applied the extract to ovarian cancer cells and found it killed them. A combination of ovarian cancer cells with chemotherapy and the extract showed even better results, compared to chemotherapy or extract on their own.
She is expanding the research to more cell lines and to other chemotherapy agents commonly used for ovarian cancer.
"It looks very promising," Judson said.
The extract has been shown to have positive effects on other cell types, but there hasn't been pharmaceutical backing for research projects or clinical trials, Judson said. The center is actively looking for funding for clinical trials.
Scott Yates, director of communication at the Washington Grain Commission, welcomed the research in the U.S.
"Wheat has been left out of the alternative use sweepstakes corn and soybeans both share," he said, pointing to ethanol and biodiesel products as examples. "We're very excited there is an alternative use which potentially could blow these other alternative uses out of the water. Wouldn't it be great if wheat was connected to some cancer cure?"
Judson thinks it's possible to see more demand for the wheat extract, which could lead to more wheat demand. The company that produces the extract will eventually try to offer it in pill form, she noted.
One woman in 70 is affected with ovarian cancer in their lifetime, Judson said, and the majority who are diagnosed will die. Her ultimate goal is to prevent ovarian cancer altogether.
"Until we can reach that goal, it would be nice if we could find alternatives that are less toxic than chemotherapy, but effective as well," she said. "Here we have this natural product that actually kills cancer cells, so it's very exciting."
Moffitt Cancer Center: www.moffit.org
Washington Grain Commission: www.washingtongrainalliance.com
Kansas Wheat Commission: www.kswheat.com