Caffeine May Be A Cancer Killer – And No Surprise Veggies too!

March 1, 2009

(ChattahBox) — While past studies have suggested that caffeine might offer some protection from skin cancer, until now the mechanism was not well understood.  A new study shows that caffeine actually helps kill off human cells damaged by ultraviolet light, one of the key triggers of several types of skin cancer.
The study lead by Dr. Paul Nghiem, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Washington in Seattle found that in cells damaged by UV rays, caffeine interrupted a protein called ATR-Chk1, causing the damaged cells to self-destruct.

Caffeine more than doubles the number of damaged cells that will die normally after exposure to UV light.

The findings which could one day lead to the development of caffeine creams or ointments to help reverse the effects of UV damage in humans and prevent some nonmelanoma skin cancers, were published online Feb. 26 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Nonmelanoma skin cancers, rarely metastasize or cause death, are the most common form of cancer in humans. For Melanoma one of the deadlier cancers, you’ll probably need your veggies!

Compounds extracted from green vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage could be a potent drug against melanoma, according to cancer researchers lead by Gavin Robertson, associate professor of pharmacology, pathology and dermatology of Penn State College of Medicine. Tests on mice suggest that these compounds, when combined with selenium, target tumors more safely and effectively than conventional therapy.

A class of compounds called isothiocyanates, naturally occurring chemicals found in cruciferous vegetables are known to have certain cancer-fighting properties. However, the potency of these compounds is so low that a successful drug would require large impractical amounts of these compounds.

Instead, the Penn State researchers rewired the compounds by replacing their sulfur bonds with selenium. The result, they believe, is a more potent drug that can be delivered intravenously in low doses.

To study the effectiveness of the new drug — isoselenocyanate — researchers injected mice with 10 million cancer cells. Six days later, when the animals developed large tumors, they were divided into two groups and treated separately with either the vegetable compounds or the compounds supplemented with selenium.

“We found that the selenium-enhanced compounds significantly reduced the production of Akt3 protein and shut down its signaling network,” explained Robertson, who is also associate director of translational research and leader of the experimental therapeutics program at Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute. The modified compounds also reduced the growth of tumors by 60 percent, compared to the vegetable-based compounds alone.

Human trials of the new drug are still some years away, but the Penn State researcher envisions a drug that could be delivered either intravenously to treat melanoma, or added to sunscreen lotion to prevent the disease.


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