04/04/2008: In vino resveratol

A new study shows an antioxidant found in red wine destroys cancer cells from the inside and enhances the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy cancer treatments.

Researchers say the antioxidant found in grape skins, known as resveratrol, appears to work by targeting the cancer cell's energy source from within and crippling it. When combined with radiation, treatment with resveratrol prior to radiation also induced cell death, an important goal of cancer treatment.

The researchers note that although resveratrol might reduce pancreatic cancer's resistance to chemotherapy, "the impact of red wine consumption on chemotherapy remains unclear."

Researcher Paul Okunieff, MD, chief of radiation oncology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, says red wine consumption during chemotherapy or radiation treatment has not been well studied, but it's not prohibited. Okunieff says if a cancer patient already drinks red wine moderately, most physicians wouldn't tell the patient to give it up. But perhaps a better choice might be to drink as much red or purple grape juice, which also contains resveratrol, as desired.

"Antioxidant research is very active and very seductive right now, the challenge lies in finding the right concentration and how it works inside the cell. In this case, we've discovered an important part of that equation. Resveratrol seems to have a therapeutic gain by making tumor cells more sensitive to radiation and making normal tissue less sensitive", Okunieff said.