Chemical in red wine may boost cancer treatment

MU researchers pair a chemical found in red wine with radiation to boost cancer treatment.

It's a chemical found in red wine and it's already known for it's benefits to the heart. But MU researchers are looking at resveratrol, to help boost the effectiveness of cancer treatments.

This chemical can also be found in peanuts, dark chocolate, blueberries and in the skin of red grapes.

In the lab, researchers at the University of Missouri are bathing cancer tumors in high concentrations of resveratrol. Some of the benefits are already well known.

â??Others have previously shown that when prostate cancer is exposed to resveratrol, the resveratrol can kill those cells,â?? says assistant professor Dr. Michael Nicholl. He says in addition, resveratrol, â??speeds up part of the natural death process of the cancer cells it also slows down the growth of the cancer cell.â??

But now Dr. Nicholl is paring the chemical with radiation to increase the effectiveness of the treatment. There are already chemotherapy agents used in the same way, but they can have harsh side effects.

The combination is showing promise with prostate cancer, melanoma, colon and ovarian cancers grown in the lab. The next step is testing the chemical plus radiation combination in mice with cancer tumors.

That will help doctors know how much of the chemical to use and how to give it says Nicholl.

â??How do we give it to people? Do they drink wine? Do they drink grape juice? Do we give it to them as a pill? Do we make a formulation that goes in the IV, or is it something that we shoot directly into the tumor?â??

Nicholl says getting a treatment from the lab to the patient can take a decade or longer, and each step of the work will require more funding.

It's important to note, researchers are using very high concentrations of the chemical. You cannot find the same effect by taking a supplement pill, eating lots of grapes or drinking a lot of wine.