Compound in red wine could make cancer treatment more effective

Jonathan Marker | Science Recorder | October 11, 2013

Compound in red wine could make cancer treatment more effective

The researchers discovered that melanoma cells become more vulnerable to radiation if treated first with resveratrol.

Researchers at the University of Missouri Health System School of Medicine recently conducted a study that shows that resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins and red wine, can increase the effectiveness of radiation treatments by making cancer cells more vulnerable.  The study focused on melanoma cells, following an earlier study that demonstrated similar results in prostate cancer treatment.

The next step in the evolution is for the researchers to develop a viable delivery method to send the compound to cancer cell sites.  The hope is that the delivery method has potential applications to the treatment of many types of cancers.

“Our study investigated how resveratrol and radiotherapy inhibit the survival of melanoma cells,” said Michael Nicholl, MD, assistant professor of surgery at the MU School of Medicine and surgical oncologist at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia, Missouri.  “This work expands upon our previous success with resveratrol and radiation in prostate cancer. Because of difficulties involved in delivery of adequate amounts of resveratrol to melanoma tumors, the compound is probably not an effective treatment for advanced melanoma at this time.”

During the study, the researchers discovered that melanoma cells become more vulnerable to radiation if treated first with resveratrol.  Specifically, treatment with resveratrol alone resulted in 44 percent death of the tumor cells.  Then, when the cancer cells were treated with a combination of both resveratrol and radiation, 65 percent of the tumor cells died.

The researchers are confident that, with additional research into the cancer-fighting benefits of the naturally occurring compound, the full extent of its usefulness for treating cancer could be achieved.

“We’ve seen glimmers of possibilities, and it seems that resveratrol could potentially be very important in treating a variety of cancers,” Nicholl said.  “It comes down to how to administer the resveratrol.  If we can develop a successful way to deliver the compound to tumor sites, resveratrol could potentially be used to treat many types of cancers.  Melanoma is very tricky due to the nature of how the cancer cells travel throughout the body, but we envision resveratrol could be combined with radiation to treat symptomatic metastatic tumors, which can develop in the brain or bone.”

While resveratrol supplements are available over the counter in many health food sections at grocery stores, the researchers do not recommend that patients rely on the supplements to treat cancer, as additional research is needed.

The results of the study appear in the Journal of Surgical Research, in an article entitled, “A potential role for resveratrol as a radiation sensitizer for melanoma treatment.”


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