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YOUR HEALTH: Using tree bark to attack tumors

Could there be an ancient remedy to a cancer that is deadly to men?

SAN ANTONIO — In the fight against aggressive prostate cancer, researchers are discovering that what's old is new again.

Cork tree bark has long been used in Asia to fight inflammation.

"People in China, they take this bark, they actually make a concoction out of this bark," said University of Texas Health molecular medicine professor Pratap Kumar.

"And, that concoction they drink, it's been going on for ages."

Kumar and his colleagues decided to test cork tree bark extract, also called nexrutine, to fight dangerous body inflammation that often contributes to cancer development.

"When we think about inflammation, we think about systemic inflammation," said Darpan Patel, UT Health associate professor of research in the School of Nursing.

"In that, we see an increase in these pro-inflammatory cytokines which is known to trigger downstream effects which can be detrimental to the healthy body."

Researchers used three animal groups and discovered that cork tree bark decreased tumors by 62% while exercise worked at about 60%

What surprised them is that the cork extract was expected to attack inflammation in the body but it also went after the tumor growth itself.

"Whereas, on the flip side, exercise did more of its impactful work through inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokines, or tumor genic cytokines," explained Patel.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men and is a leading cause of death.

These two powerful cancer fighters, the cork extract and exercise, could hold the combined key to fighting aggressive tumors through exercise and cork bark.

"If you combine those two, scientifically and logistically thinking, you get double the benefit," said Kumar.

So, although both exercise and cork bark are equally good, researchers believe the extract alone, could be a natural replacement for those who can't tolerate exercise.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com. 

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