UMass Dartmouth receives $250,000 to advance research into cancer-fighting compounds of cranberries

$150,000 gift from Leo and Anne Albert Charitable Trust will be combined with $100,000 state public health investment to support Cranberry Health Research Center

A crate of freshly-picked Early Black fruit

The UMass Dartmouth Cranberry Health Research Center has received a $150,000 gift from the Leo and Anne Albert Charitable Trust to advance research into the potential cancer-fighting benefits of cranberries. The gift will be combined with $100,000 in state Department of Public Health funds in the recently passed state budget.

The initiative brings together researchers with multidisciplinary expertise to study how cranberries, the official berry of Massachusetts, may play a role in reducing inflammatory diseases and cancers, with a focus on colon health. Multiple compounds in cranberries have been reported to reduce tumor cell growth and proliferation.

Dr. Catherine Neto, director of the Cranberry Health Research Center, leads the project. Her collaborators are Dr. Hang Xiao, UMass Amherst Department of Food Science, Dr. Milana Vasudev and Dr. Tracie Ferreira, UMass Dartmouth Department of Bioengineering, and Dr. Vanni Bucci, UMass Dartmouth Department of Biology.

Preliminary studies by Neto and Xiao have demonstrated that in a mouse model of inflammatory colon cancer/colitis, feeding cranberry powder to mice reduced tumor number and size, as well as tissue inflammation.

“These funds come at a critical time in our research,” Dr. Neto said. “Our early stage work has shown the promise of cranberries to fight disease. Now we are able to take that research to the next level.”

“When the founders first established the Albert Trust, they gave one simple instruction: help people,” said Gene Pranzo, Trustee. “Since then, we have sought to battle cancer, the disease that took both their lives. The Cranberry Health Research Center continues to show great promise in discovering new ways to both prevent and treat cancer, and we are delighted to help fund their work.”

“Through collaborative research and innovation, the Cranberry Health Research Center provides solid scientific evidence for the cranberry's role in health and nutrition,” said Senator Michael Rodrigues (D- Westport), co-chair of the Cranberry Station Oversight Board and a sponsor of the legislation providing state assistance to the Center. “I am continuously impressed by their work, and look forward to the advancement of their research made possible by the Albert Trust.”

“I want to thank the Albert Trust for their contribution and for recognizing the valuable work being done at UMass-Dartmouth,” said Rep. Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett), also a co-chair of the Cranberry Station Oversight Board and a sponsor of the legislation providing state assistance to the Center.  “These are public and private dollars that directly fund important cancer research, and I look forward to offering my continued support for the doctors and staff who conduct that research.” 

"The Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association is pleased to hear about the recent support for the UMass Dartmouth Cranberry Health Research Center and the important work that can now continue from Dr. Neto's cutting edge research,” said Brian Wick, Executive Director of the Association. “Through the collaborative efforts of the Center, we are optimistic for the future direction of cancer research that may be obtained by utilizing our native cranberry. We are thankful for the strong support from both the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Albert Trust."

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