Compound Derived from Grapes May Prevent Colon Cancer

Reservatrol and grape seed extract found to kill colon cancer cells.

The authors of a study published by BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine discovered that compounds from grapes were able to kill colon cancer in in vitro and mice models.

The compound, reservatrol, is found in the seeds and skins of grapes, which the authors hypothesize could be harnessed to prevent colon cancer, along with grape seed extract.

"The combination of resveratrol and grape seed extract is very effective at killing colon cancer cells," said Jairam K.P. Vanamala, PhD. "And what we're learning is the combination of these compounds is not toxic to healthy cells."

The American Cancer Society reports that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in America. Colon cancer is the second most common cancer among women and the third among men. The study results could be used to initiate clinical testing of the compound in human colon cancers.

The authors believe that if successful in humans, the compounds could be administered in a pill, according to the study.

Included in the study were 52 mice with colon cancer that were separated into 3 groups: a control group, mice who were fed grape compounds, and mice who were fed sulindac, an anti-inflammatory. Sulindac was chosen because it has shown the potential to reduce tumors.

"We are particularly interested in targeting stem cells because, according to cancer stem-cell theory, cancerous tumors are driven by cancer stem cells," Dr Vanamala said. "Cancer stem cells are capable of self-renewal, cellular differentiation and maintain their stem cell-like characteristics even after invasion and metastasis."

The authors discovered that tumors were suppressed by 50% among the mice consuming the grape compounds, according to the study. This was a similar rate as tumor suppression in the sulindac group.

The investigators also found that reservatrol and grape seed extract taken separately in lower doses are not as effective compared with a combination approach.

The action of the combined compounds could explain why populations that primarily eat a plant-based diet have lower rates of colon cancer. Plant-based diets may be offering protection against cancer from a wide variety of compounds that may target survival pathways for cancer cells, according to the study.

"This also connects well with a plant-based diet that is structured so that the person is getting a little bit of different types of plants, of different parts of the plant and different colors of the plant," Dr Vanamala said. "This seems to be beneficial for not only promoting bacterial diversity, but also preventing chronic diseases and eliminating the colon cancer stem cells."

The benefits may also be seen in low doses using currently available supplements for grape seed extract and reservatrol, the authors reported. These compounds are also found in wine, which may explain previous studies illustrating its health benefits.

However, further studies are needed to determine the mechanisms behind the anti-cancer properties of the grape compounds. Additional research would be focused on specific anti-cancer compounds and understanding how they work to prevent colon cancer, the study concluded.