Scientists believe they now know exactly why polyphenols, potent antioxidant compounds found in red wine and green tea, inhibit cancer growth. The discovery, published online in the FASEB Journal, is crucial because it may lead to the development of drugs that could stop or slow cancer progression, or improve current treatments.
The antioxidants produce a combined effect to disrupt an important cell signaling pathway, known as SphK1/S1P, necessary for prostate cancer growth. “Not only does SphK1/S1P signaling pathway play a role in prostate cancer, but it also plays a role in other cancers, such as colon cancer, breast cancer, and gastric cancers,” said Gerald Weissmann, MD, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal. “Even if future studies show that drinking red wine and green tea isn’t as effective in humans as we hope, knowing that the compounds in those drinks disrupts this pathway is an important step toward developing drugs that hit the same target.”
Scientists conducted in vitro experiments which showed that the inhibition of the SphK1/S1P pathway was essential for green tea and wine polyphenols to kill prostate cancer cells. Next mice that were genetically altered to grow the human prostate cancer cells were either treated or not treated with the green tea and red wine polyphenols. Mice treated with the polyphenols showed reduced cancer growth. In a second experiment with mice and polyphenols, healthy mice were divided into three groups and then given one of the following three substances: plain drinking water, drinking water with a green tea compound known as EGCg, or drinking water with a different green tea compound, polyphenon E. Human prostate cancer cells were then implanted in all the mice. A dramatic decrease in tumor size was noted in the mice drinking either the EGCg or polyphenon E mixtures.
“The profound impact that the antioxidants in red wine and green tea have on our bodies is more than anyone would have dreamt just 25 years ago,” says Weissmann. “As long as they are taken in moderation, all signs show that red wine and green tea may be ranked among the most potent ‘health foods‘ we know.”