Salvestrols – new hope for cancer

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Salvestrols

Salvestrols are a recently-discovered class of naturally derived compounds from plants, which have shown great benefit in treating a wide variety of cancers. They are safe and effective, and have been provided by nature to protect us against cancer.

Salvestrols belong to a group of phyto-nutrients called phytoalexins. The well-known Resveratrol is also a phytoalexin. Phytoalexins are produced by the plant to protect themselves from attack by pests and disease, and as such are often found in specific parts of the plant where the attack is likely to occur, such as the skin of a fruit, for example. However, modern day crop husbandry and food production techniques cause the levels of these types of compounds expressed by the plant to be significantly reduced. The use of fungicides, for example, means that the plant does not need to produce its own anti-fungal agents at the levels which would normally be needed, since the stimulus to do so, which would be initiated by the attacking fungus, has been significantly reduced or eradicated by the use of the fungicide. Similarly, the plant variety, growing, harvesting and storage conditions have been shown to affect the levels of Salvestrols in plants. Many heritage fruits have the bitter components, such as Salvestrols, bred out of them by hybridisation to make them sweeter and more attractive to modern day tastes.

Why plants produce Salvestrols

Research shows that Salvestrols are produced by plants in response to fungal infection, and are therefore most present at the sites where fungi are likely to attack. In fruits, this means on the skin as the fruit is ripening. Salvestrol compounds are also present on the surfaces of the roots of many plants, as the roots are continually under threat from fungi in the soil. Since they are naturally produced by plants in response to fungal attacks they can, as such, be regarded as part of the plant’s immune system. When crops are sprayed, they no longer need to activate their immune system for defence; this explains why unsprayed [organically grown] crops have much higher levels of Salvestrols.

Another part of the appeal of Salvestrols is that they have been identified in many fruits, vegetables and herbs that are components of the diet throughout the world and are completely natural. However, since Salvestrols are mostly found in skin, peel and rind of fruits and vegetables, and most people discard these parts of their food, they often end up on the compost heap instead of in our bellies!

Discovery of Salvestrols

This group of natural dietary compounds were discovered as a result of the combined research of Professor Dan Burke, a pharmacologist, and Professor Gerry Potter, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Director of the Cancer Drug Discovery Group at Leicester’s De Montfort University. Professor Potter had spent almost 20 years designing synthetic cancer drugs but realised along the way that plants have similar chemicals and started to look for natural anti-cancer remedies. Salvestrol is the name he coined to describe this group of natural compounds from the Latin word ‘salve’, meaning ‘to save’.

As a group, they are chemically unrelated substances, except for the similar manner in which they confer their benefits i.e. as a result of their action with the CYP1B1 enzyme. CYP1B1 is a unique enzyme found within cancer cells with which Salvestrols react to bring about apoptosis [cell death]. Because the enzyme is not present in healthy cells the Salvestrols exert no negative effects on them. According to Burke: ‘CYP1B1 is a kind of Trojan horse inside the cancer cells. Provide it with Salvestrols in the diet and it will unleash a stream of chemical agents that are deadly to the cancer cells.’

Scientists generally believe that cancer cells are forming in the body continually, but most are destroyed before they develop into malignant tumours. Consequently the research team postulates that Salvestrols play a key role in this process, protecting us through our diet.

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