Gasiewicz and Palermo showed that the chemicals shut down the AH receptor in cancerous mouse cells, and early results indicate the same is true in human cells as well.
In the laboratory the AH-inhibiting effects of green tea become evident when EGCG and EGC reach levels typical of those found in a cup of green tea. But the scientists say that how green tea is metabolized by the body is crucial to its effectiveness, and that results in the laboratory don't necessarily translate directly to the dinner table.
"Right now we don't know if drinking the amount of green tea that a person normally drinks would make a difference, but the work is giving us insight into how the proteins work," says Palermo, who enjoys cold green tea herself. "There are a lot of differences between various kinds of green tea, so a lot more research is needed."
For this work Palermo received the award for best poster in the chemical carcinogenesis specialty section at the meeting of the Society of Toxicology in March. Now she is studying exactly how green tea inhibits the AH receptor. After she graduates Palermo plans to study links between environmental agents and childhood leukemia.