Document Type

Master's Research

Degree Name

Master of Science




Elliott J. Blumenthal

Date of Award



Present cancer treatments cause the cessation of the body’s own natural defenses, resulting in the susceptibility of patients to other illnesses, namely infection, during therapy. Contemporary research must focus on developing treatments to preserve or even augment the body’s natural defenses by pursuing naturally-derived elements devoid of such adverse effects. Seeking more natural treatments, Sambucus Nigra (elderberry) proves to be an important source of known immune stimulators including anthocyanins, catechins, and tannins, as wells as several known antioxidants and tumor suppressive agents in the form of flavonoids and proanthocyanidins.

Our primary goal was to separate the distinctive components of an elderberry extract using gravity column chromatography and examine their proliferative effects on T lymphocytes as well as their inhibitory effects on the growth of human skin melanoma cells.

Due to the successful effects of crude elderberry extracts on both immune enhancement and tumor suppression, we concluded that there must be specific components within the berry that enables its therapeutic value.

The effects on immune cell stimulation were assessed through the quantitative analysis of spleen cell proliferation, which yielded significantly positive spleen cell stimulation following the addition of and concanavalin A, a known mitogen, as compared to the spleen cells incubated solely with concanavalin A.

The inhibitory effect of the extract fractions was examined on a melanoma cell line. The successful suppression of tumor cell growth by several of the elderberry extract fractions, without mass suppression, was observed. In vivo studies using specific elderberry fractions may validate the use of the resolved components as viable therapeutic agents both in immunotherapy as well as chemotherapy.