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A new promise in the fight against prostate cancer

A study at UT Health San Antonio shows that a product from tree bark could slow the progress of the disease.

SAN ANTONIO — Prostate cancer is one of the more aggressive cancers we see in South Texas. But a study currently underway at UT Health San Antonio could prove to slow down disease's progress and save lives all over the world.

"The company called me and told me their clients observed their PSA levels were dropping after taking this for joint pains," said Pratap Kumar, a professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at UT Health San Antonio.

He's referring to Nexrutine—a supplement made from tree bark that people had been taking as an anti-inflammatory, and which now shows promise in the fight against prostate cancer. 

"We studied this Nexrutine product to see if there's any potential to be an exercise analog, meaning if there's any similarities between the natural product and exercise," said Darpan Patel, an associate professor of research in the School of Nursing at UT Health San Antonio. 

The study took 45 mice and divided them into three groups. One group received food pellets supplemented with Nexrutine. The second group received free access to a running wheel. The third was the control group with no treatment. 

The group receiving the cork tree extract had 62% less growth. And the exercise group had 60% less growth compared to the control group, showing that both Nexrutine and exercise work equally, but use different pathways.

"That's where this next line of research goes in really identifying the mechanisms behind why and how exercise is beneficial in preventing aggressive prostate tumors," Patel said. 

Kumar added, "What we really want to see is if we can get a better effect by putting these two together."

If that pre-clinical trial reveals positive results, Patel told us, "This research provides the evidence needed for us to move forward in potentially treating patients with prostate cancer in a clinical trial."

Kumar added, "Although we are working on the prostate I think it will go beyond prostate because exercise benefits other cancers too."

That means many more lives could be saved thanks to research done right here in San Antonio.