Wine And Berry Pills to Aid Fight Against Cancer ; Food Compounds Can Help Prevent Tumours

Evening Standard - London

10-03-07

PILLS made from rice, berries and red wine could soon be available to help prevent cancer.

British scientists are pioneering the use of food compounds to protect against tumours in the breast, colon and prostate.

They are studying four different pills after examining the diets of people who are less likely to develop cancer.

The tablets are made from isolated chemical compounds in Thai sticky rice, bilberries, red wine and spices, and should be available by 2010. Scientists have been given financial backing to test the red wine pill by Cancer Research UK and work is under way.

Professor Will Steward, a cancer and molecular medicine expert, said it was the latest step in the fight to find drugs that stop cells becoming malignant a technique called chemoprevention.

"These agents have proved highly effective in the laboratory it is extraordinary," he said. "They act in numerous ways on pre- cancerous cells but they also appear to be effective on cancerous cells. We know they are safe to use but we want to establish if they are effective in humans." Many people already take supplements such as selenium in the belief it might cut the risk of them developing lung, bowel and prostate cancer.

A trial in America is looking at the role of selenium in protecting against prostate cancer but the full results are not expected until 2012.

Professor Steward said: "We want to be more scientific about developing a tablet that can have an effect by focusing on the chemical compound that already appears to reduce the risk in some people." His work at the University of Leicester is based on evidence that rural populations in Thailand who eat a high proportion of sticky rice are less likely to develop breast cancer.

Research into chemoprevention has become increasingly urgent as more than one in three people will develop cancer at some point in their lives.

The disease cost the NHS more than Pounds 14 billion last year, 5.4 per cent of the total NHS budget and a 12 per cent increase on the previous year.

The four compounds are tricin, found in Thai sticky rice, resveratrol, from red wine, curcumin, found in turmeric, and anthocyanins, groups of antioxidants derived from bilberries.

Each one has already been linked to cancer reduction but Professor Steward wants to establish if any effect can be concentrated in tablet form. Resveratrol has been made into a tablet by a company in Italy and tested on 40 volunteers, with trials due to start in Michigan.

Curcumin pills have been tried on up to 80 people in Leicester who have a higher risk of colon cancer.

Today, Dr Steward told the National Cancer Research Institute Conference in Birmingham that the compounds appeared to act by entering the nucleus of cells and altering signals that could lead to malignancy, including reducing blood vessel activity. However, clinical trials were now needed, he added.

The move towards cancer-preventing pills was wel omed by Karol Sikora, professor of cancer medicine at Imperial College.

He said: "We know that fruit and vegetables prevent cancer and there is no magic to it, so there must be some ingredients in different foods that are going to help. Ideally, you would get people changing their lifestyles but a tablet is clearly going to be of help. This is a really exciting area."