Mounting evidence shows red wine antioxidant kills cancer

March 25, 2008

Rochester researchers showed for the first time that a natural antioxidant found in grape skins and red wine can help destroy pancreatic cancer cells by reaching to the cell's core energy source, or mitochondria, and crippling its function. The study is published in the March edition of the journal, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology.

The study also showed that when the pancreatic cancer cells were doubly assaulted -- pre-treated with the antioxidant, resveratrol, and irradiated -- the combination induced a type of cell death called apoptosis, an important goal of cancer therapy.

The research has many implications for patients, said lead author Paul Okunieff, M.D., chief of Radiation Oncology at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Although red wine consumption during chemotherapy or radiation treatment has not been well studied, it is not "contraindicated," Okunieff said. In other words, if a patient already drinks red wine moderately, most physicians would not tell the patient to give it up during treatment. Perhaps a better choice, Okunieff said, would be to drink as much red or purple grape juice as desired.

Yet despite widespread interest in antioxidants, some physicians are concerned antioxidants might end up protecting tumors. Okunieff's study showed there is little evidence to support that fear. In fact, the research suggests resveratrol not only reaches its intended target, injuring the nexus of malignant cells, but at the same time protects normal tissue from the harmful effects of radiation.

"Antioxidant research is very active and very seductive right now," Okunieff said. "The challenge lies in finding the right concentration and how it works inside the cell. In this case, we've discovered an important part of that equation. Resveratrol seems to have a therapeutic gain by making tumor cells more sensitive to radiation and making normal tissue less sensitive."

Resveratrol is known for its ability to protect plants from bacteria and fungi. Purified versions have been described in scientific journals as potential anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-atherogenic agents, and for their ability to modulate cell growth. Other well-known antioxidants derived from natural sources include caffeine, melatonin, flavonoids, polyphenols, and vitamins C and E.

A flurry of antioxidant studies in recent years has not proven how and why they work at the cellular level. At the suggestion of a young scientist in his lab, Okunieff began studying resveratrol as a tumor sensitizer. That's when they discovered its link to the mitochondria.

The discovery is critical because, like the cell nucleus, the mitochondria contains its own DNA and has the ability to continuously supply the cell with energy when functioning properly. Stopping the energy flow theoretically stops the cancer.

Researchers divided pancreatic cancer cells into two groups: cells treated without resveratrol, or with resveratrol, at a relatively high dose of 50 mg/ml, in combination with ionizing radiation. (The resveratrol concentration in red wine can be as high as 30 mg/ml, the study said, and higher doses are expected to be safe as long as a physician is monitoring.)

They evaluated the mitochondria function of the cells treated with resveratrol, and also measured apoptosis (cell death), the level of reactive oxygen species in the cells, and how the cell membranes responded to the antioxidant.

Laboratory experiments showed that resveratrol:

-- Reduced the function of proteins in the pancreatic cancer cell membranes that are responsible for pumping chemotherapy out of the cell, making the cells chemo-sensitive.
-- Triggered the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are substances circulating in the human body that have been implicated in a number of diseases: when ROS is increased, cells burn out and die.
-- Caused apoptosis, which is likely the result of increased ROS.
-- Depolarized the mitochondrial membranes, which indicates a decrease in the cell's potential to function. Radiation alone does not injure the mitochondrial membrane as much.

The team also wanted to investigate why pancreatic cancer cells seem to be particularly resistant to chemotherapy. The pancreas, a gland located deep in the abdomen, produces insulin and regulates sugar, and pumps or channels powerful digestive enzymes into the duodenum. This natural pumping process, however, ends up ridding the needed chemotherapy from cells in the pancreas. But just as reseveratrol interferes with the cancer cells' energy source, it also may decrease the power available to pump chemotherapy out of the cell.

"While additional studies are needed," Okunieff said, "this research indicates that resveratrol has a promising future as part of the treatment for cancer."

In the same journal, Okunieff and his group also reviewed why resveratrol protects normal tissue, and found that antioxidants can be designed to take advantage of certain biochemical properties or cellular targets, making them more effective.

Source: University of Rochester

Explore further: Getting fat to 'talk' again could lower blood glucose and weight

Related Stories

Getting fat to 'talk' again could lower blood glucose and weight

August 22, 2017
Diabetes is a tough disease to manage. Oral medications, insulin shots, close monitoring of blood sugar, dietary changes and exercise can all factor into a person's treatment regimen. Now researchers are exploring a novel, ...

Clinical trial examines drug combo as remission-inducing treatment options for LAM

August 7, 2017
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) begin a new clinical trial this fall, examining the potential role of a drug combination therapy to eliminate lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) cells. The trial will look at the ...

Calorie restriction with resveratrol key to kick-starting cell health

July 17, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—When it comes to staying healthy, it's a cell-eat-cell world. As cells age, damaged proteins and lipids accumulate within them. Impaired cell parts can send free radicals into the body, and dysfunctional ...

Aspirin and resveratrol could prevent cancer by killing tetraploid cells, research shows

February 11, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Aspirin and resveratrol kill tetraploid cells in mice and humans, according to a study by Guido Kroemer of the Gustave Roussy Institute in Villejuif, France and his colleagues. Precancerous lesions often ...

A sip of resveratrol and a full p53: Ingredients for a successful cell death

November 13, 2012
Researchers at the Universidade Federal in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil have found that introduction of a normal copy of the p53 gene in p53-defective cancer cell lines makes these cells sensitive to the anti-tumor proprieties ...

Resveratrol could help treat multiple types of cancer, study finds

October 11, 2013
A recent study by a University of Missouri researcher shows that resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins and red wine, can make certain tumor cells more susceptible to radiation treatment. This research, which studied ...

Recommended for you

Alternative splicing, an important mechanism for cancer

September 22, 2017
Cancer, which is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, arises from the disruption of essential mechanisms of the normal cell life cycle, such as replication control, DNA repair and cell death. Thanks to the advances ...

'Labyrinth' chip could help monitor aggressive cancer stem cells

September 21, 2017
Inspired by the Labyrinth of Greek mythology, a new chip etched with fluid channels sends blood samples through a hydrodynamic maze to separate out rare circulating cancer cells into a relatively clean stream for analysis. ...

Drug combination may improve impact of immunotherapy in head and neck cancer

September 21, 2017
Checkpoint inhibitor-based immunotherapy has been shown to be very effective in recurrent and metastatic head and neck cancer but only in a minority of patients. University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers ...

Whole food diet may help prevent colon cancer, other chronic conditions

September 21, 2017
A diet that includes plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits may contain compounds that can stop colon cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases in pigs, according to an international team of researchers. Understanding how ...

New kinase detection method helps identify targets for developing cancer drugs

September 21, 2017
Purdue University researchers have developed a high-throughput method for matching kinases to the proteins they phosphorylate, speeding the ability to identify multiple potential cancer drug targets.

Poliovirus therapy induces immune responses against cancer

September 20, 2017
An investigational therapy using modified poliovirus to attack cancer tumors appears to unleash the body's own capacity to fight malignancies by activating an inflammation process that counter's the ability of cancer cells ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gdpawel
not rated yet Mar 28, 2008
Red wine to overcome tumor resistance?

http://www.cancer...#post848

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.