Study Evaluates Impact of Black Raspberries on Oral Cancer Prevention in Smokers

May 16, 2017
Black raspberries

COLUMBUS, OHIO – Cigarette smokers are needed for a new study to test whether phytochemicals in black raspberries can protect smokers from oral disease and lower their risk of developing oral cancer.

Conducted through The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) and College of Dentistry, this new study is a unique collaboration of Ohio State’s Colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Public Health and Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and the cancer program. The study will include about 250 people and there is a critical need for volunteer smokers who are otherwise healthy. 

Smoking is the primary risk factor for oral cancer. Previously reported laboratory research at OSU shows that black raspberries contain phytochemicals potentially beneficial for inhibiting the early stages of oral cancer development. For this new study, researchers will evaluate the impact of black raspberry compounds on the bacteria in the mouths of current smokers, which may also contribute to oral cancer development.

“We know that the normal oral bacteria community plays a critical role in health and that both smoking and foods may impact the oral bacteria and impact the risk of developing diseases of the oral cavity such as periodontal diseases. We are now investigating how specific foods impact the oral bacterial community and cancer risk.   It is clear that people who smoke have a much higher risk for oral diseases — including oral cancer — and that the bacterial environment participates in this process,” says Purnima Kumar, PhD, DDS, associate professor in the College of Dentistry and scientist with the OSUCCC – James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Research Program. “This study will help us understand whether one very specific dietary intervention could reduce oral cancer risk in a high risk (smoking) population.”

Study Design and Methods
After a dental cleaning, researchers will collect bacteria from participants’ gums, cheeks and tongue. Participants will then be randomized to receive either a control beverage (containing berry flavor) or the test beverage containing black raspberry components. Participants will be required to drink a certain amount of the beverage every day and follow a diet that limits other types of berries and berry products.

Researchers will use this information to analyze how and if the bacterial environment in the mouth changes after berry treatment in smokers compared with non-smokers.

“These phytochemicals are effective for reducing chronic inflammation and tumor progression and we’ve shown they are safe to test for cancer prevention purposes in humans,” adds Elizabeth Grainger, PhD, RD, a clinical research nutritionist and with the OSUCCC – James and scientist with the College of Medicine. “Our goal is to gain insight on how this novel black raspberry beverage may impact oral health and, ultimately, oral cancer risk.”

About the OSUCCC – James
The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute strives to create a cancer-free world by integrating scientific research with excellence in education and patient-centered care, a strategy that leads to better methods of prevention, detection and treatment. Ohio State is one of only 47 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and one of only a few centers funded by the NCI to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials on novel anticancer drugs sponsored by the NCI. As the cancer program’s 308-bed adult patient-care component, The James is one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation as ranked by U.S. News & World Report and has achieved Magnet designation, the highest honor an organization can receive for quality patient care and professional nursing practice. With 21 floors and more than 1.1 million square feet, The James is a transformational facility that fosters collaboration and integration of cancer research and clinical cancer care. Learn more at

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Amanda J. Harper
OSUCCC – James Media Relations
Office: 614-685-5420

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