Green tea extract: powerful new weapon in cancer treatment armoury?
A team of Scottish researchers has successfully used a chemical compound found in green tea to treat two types of skin cancer.
The researchers, from the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow, developed a specific method for applying the extract, known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), directly to tumours.
Writing in the journal Nanomedicine, the team explains the connection between green tea and cancer. Despite green tea long being associated with combating cancer, delivering tea compounds to the tumour by conventional intravenous administration is not very effective, as not enough of the extract gets to the tumour.
Now the team have managed to make the extract effective at shrinking tumours by devising a targeted delivery system, which works by fusing the extract to proteins that carry iron molecules, which are in turn absorbed by the tumour.
In a laboratory study on two different types of skin cancer, nearly two-thirds of the tumours it was delivered to either shrank or disappeared within one month. To boot, no side effects for normal tissues were associated with the treatment.
A total of 40 % of both types of tumour vanished, while 30 % of one and 20 % of another type shrank. A further 10 % of one of the types were stabilised. It is thought that these are the first tests where that this type of treatment has made cancerous tumours shrink or vanish.
Lead study author Dr Christine Dufès from the University of Strathclyde comments on this promising research: 'These are very encouraging results which we hope could pave the way for new and effective cancer treatments. When we used our method, the green tea extract reduced the size of many of the tumours every day, in some cases removing them altogether. By contrast, the extract had no effect at all when it was delivered by other means, as every one of these tumours continued to grow. This research could open doors to new treatments for what is still one of the biggest killer diseases in many countries.'
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the number of cases of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers continues to rise; currently, between 2 million and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers, and 132 000 melanoma skin cancers occur each year worldwide.
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Document Reference: Lemarié, F., et al., 'Antitumor activity of the tea polyphenol epigallocatechin-3-gallate encapsulated in targeted vesicles after intravenous administration', Nanomedicine, 2012. doi:10.2217/nnm.12.83
Subject Index: Coordination, Cooperation; Life Sciences; Medicine, Health; Scientific Research