Green tea extract makes 40pc of skin cancers vanish
Powerful new anti-cancer drugs based on green tea could be developed after scientists found an extract from the beverage could make almost half of skin tumours vanish.
The team of researchers from the University of Strathclyde made 40pc of human skin cancer tumours disappear using the compound, in a laboratory study.
Green tea has long been suspected of having anti-cancer properties and the extract, called epigallocatechin gallate, has been investigated.
However, this is the first time researchers have managed to make it effective at shrinking tumours.
Previous attempts to capitalise on its cancer-fighting properties have failed because the scientists had used intravenous drips, which failed to deliver enough of the extract to the tumours themselves.
The Strathclyde team devised an alternative "targeted delivery system", piggy-backing the extract on proteins that carry iron molecules, which cancer tumours readily absorb.
The laboratory test on one type of human skin cancer showed 40pc of tumours disappeared after a month of treatment, while an additional 30pc shrank.
Dr Christine Dufes, a senior lecturer at the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, who led the research, said: "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 when delivered by other means.
"It could open doors to new treatments for what is still one of the biggest killer diseases in many countries."
She added: "The problems with this extract is that when it's administered intravenously, it goes everywhere in the body, so when it gets to the tumours it's too diluted.
"With the targeted delivery system, it's taken straight to the tumours without any effect on normal tissue."
Cancer scientists are increasingly using targeted delivery to improve results, relying on the many different "receptors" that tumours have for different biological substances.
In this instance, the scientists used the fact that tumours have receptors for transferrin, a plasma protein which transports iron through the blood.
The results have been published in the journal 'Nanomedicine.'
The "ultimate objective" was a clinical trial in humans -- but Dr Dufes said that was some way off.
"We have got to optimise the delivery system and therapeutic effect first," she said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)