What is glioblastoma?
Glioblastoma cells (GBM) are tumours which occur in the supportive tissue of the brain. They arise in the star-shaped cells called astrocytes which are glue-like in consistency and provide protection for the vital neurons of the brain. The cells within glioblastomas are highly cancerous as they reproduce extremely quickly. This is aided by the fact that the cells have a very effective blood supply from the large number of vessels which supply them. The GBM tumours can occur anywhere within the central hemispheres of the brain or spinal cord.
It is not known what causes glioblastoma cells to occur, but they are more common in men than women and less likely to occur in childhood. The frequency of glioblastoma cell occurrences increases with age. They make up 15.4% of all primary brain tumours and a far larger amount (60-75%) of all cancers affecting the astrocytes. The astrocytes are difficult to access, making glioblastoma cells among the most challenging cancers to treat.
What is Bakupari?
Found in South America, the bakupari (botanical name Rheedia Brasiliensis) is native to Brazil, Paraguay and Northern Argentina. It is currently only rarely cultivated. The bakupari tree is of medium size, between 9 and 14 metres in height, and its leaves are dark green in colour. The tree contains yellow latex which leaks from any wounds in the trunk or branches.
The bakupari flowers are white and grow in small clusters at the axil (the point where the leaf stem breaks out from the branch of the tree.) The tree produces fruit which is oval in shape and slightly pointed at the end furthest from the tree. It has a thick, peel-like skin that can be penetrated to reveal the white pulp beneath which protects the seeds.
As glioblastomas are so difficult to deal with, medics have long felt that research into treatments which might slow or reduce the occurrences of GBM in patients is necessary. Little research has been completed previously on the effects of bakupari extract on cancerous cells, however a recent study looked at exploring the anti-cancerous possibilities provided by a benzophenone (an organic compound) containing extract from the tough outer skin of the fruit of the bakupari tree.
The research looked specifically at the effect of the benzophenone on two glioblastoma cell lines. It considered how the compound affected the cancerous cells, looking at how effectively the cells could survive and multiply when receiving the treatment. Simply put, the study focused on how successful the compound was at killing off the cancerous cells. The GBM cells were closely studied using a range of methods including visual inspection, counting and staining the cells with various agents to observe their behaviour when being exposed to the compound containing the bakupari fruit extract.
Results of this initial research demonstrate that further investigation into the effects of the bakupari extract compound would be extremely worthwhile. GBM cells became far weaker and less viable under the benzophenone treatment, and were less able to multiply and colonise. The study showed that even after the removal of the compound, the cancerous cells were less likely to multiply and strengthen again, demonstrating the possible long term effects of the treatment. Higher or lower concentrations of the benzophenone had different effects on the cells, but a general increase in cancerous cell death was observed in the study at all levels. Finally, researchers felt that additional studies into the effect of bakupari extract as an anti-cancer treatment are definitely warranted.