Chemoprevention backgrounder: Working for a future of cancer chemoprevention

a and Japan. "Epidemiological studies conducted in the 1980s suggested that people in those countries who drink a certain number of cups of green tea, or more, each day, appear to be protected against a variety of cancers, including stomach, prostate, colorectal, and head and neck cancers," says Papadimitrakopoulou. New laboratory research has found that epigallocatechin gallate, a tannin with potent antioxidant activity, suppresses signals that instruct a cell to grow.

In Papadimitrakopoulou's ongoing "blinded" study, volunteers with precancerous conditions of the oral cavity are split into four groups, three of which are given different doses of a pill that contain the green tea extract. The other group is given an inert "placebo" tablet.

At the start and end of the three-month trial, which has recruited 21 patients so far, volunteers are given a biopsy of the worrisome lesion. Results so far "have been encouraging," says Papadimitrakopoulou. "From a natural pool of agents that we are studying, this is one of the most promising."

The (bumpy) road ahead What most excites Lippman and other researchers at M. D. Anderson is the notion that cancer and other common diseases of aging may be linked by common pathways that could be strategically disrupted by simply taking pills every day.

And the current number one pathway candidate, in many researchers' eyes, is inflammation, the immune system's reaction to cell and tissue injury. Cancer often originates at the site of chronic inflammation, and the interplay between the two is being increasingly studied.

Lippman ticks off on his fingers the role that inflammation plays in "heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, the chronic diseases associated with aging, and even obesity," and says that NSAIDs and statins, which also reduce inflammation, are now being tested in cancer, as well as in Alzheimer's disease; aspirin and statins, he further notes, have long been used to prevent heart atta

Contact: Nancy Jensen
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

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