According to a new study by Penn State University, the main antioxidant in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), assists in killing cancer cells by destroying the cells’ mitochondria.
Chemotherapy is quickly falling out of practice because it not only kills the cancer cells, it also attacks healthy cells. Chemotherapy is one of the least favorite treatments of cancer patients and even the doctors because it results in hair loss and frequent immune system related illness.
Associate professor of food science at Penn State, Joshua Lambert said: “You don’t see these sorts of side effects with green tea consumption.” Lambert and his associates carried out the study by observing cell cultures, which the team injected with the same amount of Eepigallocatechin-3-Gallate a person would normally have in their saliva after chewing green tea-flavored gum. As a result, a number of promising reactions were seen.
Lambert explained: “It looks like EGCG causes the formation of reactive oxygen species in cancer cells, which damages the mitochondria, and the mitochondria responds by making more reactive oxygen species.” Over the period of time, the mitochondria lose more of its defenses with a breakdown in the expression of antioxidant genes. When weakened, the cancer cells eventually succumb to Eepigallocatechin-3-Gallate completely, and they die.
This is not the first time Eepigallocatechin-3-Gallate’s cancer killing ability is revealed. Last year, scientists from another institution discovered EGCG’s ability to prevent and slow the growth of pancreatic cancer. Prior studies have shown that enzyme inhibitor oxamate is instrumental in destroying LDHA (key enzymes in pancreatic cancer cells). In a test of similar nature, it was discovered that EGCG rivaled oxamate in its destructive power.
Scientists of both the institutions share the same goal: finding a permanent cure for cancer.
Many forms of cancer are rising in prevalence, especially in developing countries where the Western diet wields a hazardous, processed influence. For instance, among women, lung cancer recently passed breast cancer as the most fatal form of cancer in the developed world. Pancreatic cancer is almost just as bad as lung cancer. Out of the total of 45,000 people diagnoses each year in the United States, 85 percent of cancer cases are fatal.
For Lambert and his associates, the more immediate goal is to move out of cell cultures. The team’s next step is animal models so that they could study the kind of side effects (if any) Eepigallocatechin-3-Gallate might bring.
If the mitochondria carry on withering in EGCG’s presence, the scientists will move a step closer to developing alternative therapies for oral cancer. This way they will no more rely on the wide-scoped forces of chemo.