Grape Extracts in Wine Can Help Fight Colon Cancer, Research Suggests

A study conducted on mice at Penn State's Hershey Cancer Institute showed that various compounds found in grape seeds can kill cancerous colorectal stem cells.

Aug. 30, 2017
By Sheherzad Preisler

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Colon can­cer is the sec­ond lead­ing cause of can­cer-related deaths in the United States, accord­ing to the American Cancer Society. It is the third most com­mon can­cer in men and the sec­ond most com­mon can­cer in women. New research on mice sug­gests drink­ing a glass of wine could help fight the dis­ease.

The study con­ducted on mice at Penn State’s Hershey Cancer Institute showed that var­i­ous com­pounds found in grape seeds can kill can­cer­ous col­orec­tal stem cells.

The com­pounds, which are known as resver­a­trol, were found to kill colon can­cer cells most effec­tively when com­bined with grape seed extract; in fact, tak­ing resver­a­trol and grape seed extract sep­a­rately was less effec­tive in killing can­cer­ous stem cells.

Both resver­a­trol and grape seed extract are found in wine, which is argued by many includ­ing sup­port­ers of the Mediterranean diet to be healthy if con­sumed in mod­er­a­tion. The Mediterranean Diet also empha­sizes legumes, nuts, whole grains, fruits, and veg­eta­bles, as well as herbs and lean meats, such as fish and poul­try. It also encour­ages cook­ing with olive oil instead of but­ter, and stud­ies have shown that fol­low­ing the Mediterranean diet pro­motes a healthy heart.

This also con­nects well with a plant-based diet that is struc­tured so that the per­son is get­ting a lit­tle bit of dif­fer­ent types of plants, of dif­fer­ent parts of the plant and dif­fer­ent col­ors of the plant,” noted Jairam K.P. Vanamala, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of food sci­ences, Penn State. This seems to be ben­e­fi­cial for not only pro­mot­ing bac­te­r­ial diver­sity, but also pre­vent­ing chronic dis­eases and elim­i­nat­ing the colon can­cer stem cells.”


The research team placed 52 mice with can­cer­ous tumors in their colons into three dis­tinct groups: a con­trol group, one fed grape com­pounds, and a third fed sulin­dac, an anti-inflam­ma­tory drug that killed a sig­nif­i­cant amount of tumors in humans dur­ing a pre­vi­ous clin­i­cal trial.

The results were clear: in the group of mice con­sum­ing the grape com­pounds, their inci­dence of tumors was reduced by 50 per­cent; this rate was com­pa­ra­ble to the results from the group of mice that con­sumed sulin­dac.

Vanamala said in a press release that not only is the com­bi­na­tion of grape seed extract and resver­a­trol very effec­tive at killing colon can­cer cells,” but also non­toxic to healthy ones.

If human tri­als using resver­a­trol and grape seed extract are suc­cess­ful in com­bat­ing colon can­cer, patients could be given the com­pounds in low doses via pill sup­ple­ments that are already on the mar­ket; patients could even con­tinue tak­ing the sup­ple­ments to lower the risk of their can­cer return­ing.

Based on can­cer stem-cell the­ory, Vanamala asserted that it is best to tar­get can­cer­ous stem cells in par­tic­u­lar because they are what give rise to can­cer­ous tumors. This is because can­cer­ous stem cells remain respon­si­ble for cel­lu­lar dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion and self-renewal even after they have metas­ta­sized, or spread through­out the body.

Moving for­ward, Vanamala explained that it’s impor­tant researchers look into the under­ly­ing mech­a­nisms of these grape extracts’ anti-can­cer func­tions. Ideally, fol­low-up research would focus on dis­cov­er­ing the spe­cific anti-can­cer com­pounds found in grape seed extract and resver­a­trol to put together the most effec­tive colon-can­cer treat­ment and pre­ven­tion approaches pos­si­ble.

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