HUNTINGTON - A newly published clinical trial conducted locally suggests drinking tart cherry juice may reduce joint and muscle pain in breast cancer patients.
The nearly two-year study was conducted by the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine from May 2016 to August 2018. The randomized, placebo-controlled and double-blind trial, funded through a grant by the Cherry Marketing Institute, had 60 patients drink one ounce of tart cherry juice with a cup of water.
In the study, tart cherry is thought to alleviate common side effects of aromatase inhibitors, which is the standard treatment for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women by blocking the effects of estrogen. This treatment, however, commonly causes joint and muscle pain, which can sometimes be severe enough for patients to not complete their treatments.
The idea of using tart cherry juice came to Dr. Maria Tria Tirona's attention after a friend suggested drinking tart cherry juice after working out to help muscle and joint soreness.
"I decided to try it on myself, and after about a week or two I noticed I wasn't achy after a workout like I had been," said Tirona, who is the fellowship program director, section chief and professor, hematology-oncology, in the Department of Internal Medicine at the School of Medicine and ECCC director of Medical Oncology. "It made me think of my patients and if the juice would help them, too."
The trial found patients who drank cherry juice recorded a 34.7% mean decrease in pain intensity, compared to 1.4% in the placebo group, according to a release by Cabell Huntington Hospital.
The Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) awarded Dr. Mina Shenouda, a hematology-oncology fellow and the study's principal investigator, with a Merit Award for his work on the trial.
"An entire team of medical oncologists, nurses, physician assistants and clinical trial personnel at the ECCC contributed to the success of this clinical trial," Tirona said. "We are honored to be recognized by such a prestigious group for our results.
"I am also very grateful to all the patients who participated."
Opened in 2006, the 70,000-square-foot Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center is located at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington.