Mannose, a sugar supplement, may help slow down the growth of certain cancers and help increase the effects of the treatment, suggests a new study.
Mannose is also found naturally in some fruits such as cranberries.
Mice with lung, pancreatic or skin cancer were fed mannose in order to study its affects. It was observed that the supplement weakened the growth of the cancerous tumors without any side-effects.
So, can humans start using mannose supplements now? Researchers aren’t sure yet and hope to begin human trials soon to see whether there are any side-effects on humans.
Mannose, which is often used as a nutritional supplement and sometimes used to treat UTIs (urinary tract infections), somehow manages to disrupt the way the cancerous tumours grow by using glucose.
The researchers also tested how mice treated with other chemotherapy drugs, namely cisplatin and doxorubicin, would react to mannose.
The results indicated that mannose helped in improving the effects of the chemotherapy treatment by decreasing the growth of tumours and diminishing their size. This also helped increase the longevity of some mice.
In other tests, different types of cancerous cells (including bone, ovarian, bowel cancers) were injected with mannose. While it had a positive affect on some, the other cells didn’t respond that well.
Researchers said that the response seemed to have depended on the levels of a certain enzyme that these cells carried, which helped break down mannose.
Lead author Prof Kevin Ryan, from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, said:
My team has found a dosage of mannose that could block enough glucose to slow tumour growth in mice but not so much that normal tissues were affected.
But this is early research but it is hoped that finding this perfect balance means that, in the future, mannose could be given to cancer patients to enhance chemotherapy without damaging their overall health.
While it will be interesting to see how humans respond to the mannose treatment, scientists have warned patients to avoid self-prescription of mannose as there might be potential health risks for humans.>