Bees may be hoarding a natural substance that halts the growth of prostate cancer cells and tumors, according to a study published online in Cancer Prevention Research. The substance is a compound found in propolis, which is a resin-like material obtained from poplar and cone-bearing trees that bees use to repair their hives.
Beehive propolis has a long history of medicinal use among humans. Ancient healers used it for abscesses, wounds and tumors. Today, holistic practitioners use propolis for canker sores, infectious diseases, cancer, ulcers, inflammation, sore throat and to boost the immune system.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 28,000 men die of prostate cancer each year.
Researchers from the University of Chicago Medicine discovered that a compound isolated from bee propolis called caffeic acid phenethyl ester, or CAPE, thwarts early stage prostate cancer at the cellular level. In essence, CAPE starves the cancer cells to death by interfering with their ability to detect sources of nutrition.
During the animal study, mice that had human prostate tumors grafted in to them were administered oral doses of CAPE for six weeks. The tumors volume growth was reduced by half as long as they were administered CAPE. Several weeks after discontinuing the CAPE treatment the tumor cells began to grow at their original pace again, suggesting the substance does not kill the cells only prevents cellular division and prostate cancer proliferation.
The study authors suggest that if clinical trials confirm their findings CAPE could become a promising adjunct therapy with conventional cancer treatment strategies.