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Grapes' Anti-Fungal Agent
May Fight Cancer, Too
Excerpt By Richard Woodman, Reuters Health

LONDON (Reuters Health) - Scientists said on Tuesday they had gained fresh insight into how a natural anti-fungal agent found in grapes and other crops may help prevent cancer.

Researchers from the School of Pharmacy at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, reported in the British Journal of Cancer that resveratrol is converted in the body to a known anti-cancer agent that can selectively target and destroy cancer cells.

Although previous studies have suggested that this phytoestrogen might prevent cancer, they said it was the "first time that scientists had gained an insight into the underlying mechanism of the chemical's anti-cancer properties."

Professor Gerry Potter, the research group leader, said in a news release: "Resveratrol is a defensive molecule against fungus in grapes and other crops, and is found at higher levels in those which have not been treated with man-made fungicides.

"Learning from nature in this way will help in our work to design drugs which are selectively activated in a tumour and can form the basis of anti-cancer treatments."

The researchers found that resveratrol is processed by the enzyme CYP1B1, which is found in a variety of different tumours. This converts resveratrol into piceatannol, a closely related phytoestrogen with known anti-cancer activity.

Previous research by the team has shown that this process is restricted to the tumour itself, limiting the toxicity to the cancer cells and serving to selectively destroy them.

Scientists previously believed that CYP1B1 was a cause of cancer, because it is only found in tumours and not in healthy tissue. Far from causing cancer, they now think the enzyme is there to fight it and the team is continuing research into ways to assist it in its work.

"The belief that CYP1B1 is a cause of cancer is like blaming police for a crime just because they are on the scene," Potter said. "We suspected this natural product might be beneficial for health and have cancer preventative properties. This research shows just how it could prevent tumours developing by producing these anti-cancer molecules within the cancer cells themselves."

The team is also looking into the beneficial effects of Brassica vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage that contain a molecule that activates the CYP1B1 enzyme.

SOURCE: British Journal of Cancer 2002;5.


Reference Source 89

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