Green tea drinkers love that beverage. Mesothelioma cells haven’t yet tasted the brew, but new research out of Penn State University suggests they’re going to hate it once they do.
Scientists there discovered that green tea contains a polyphenol compound that kills cancer cells.
Specifically, it kills cancer cells when it comes into contact with them. In the case of tea drinking, this means cancer cells growing in the mouth.
The university speculates that this finding could lead to a treatment for not only oral cancer but also other types of cancers, perhaps even mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma May Find EGCG Leaves A Bad Taste
The magic ingredient of green tea that kills cancer cells — but leaves healthy ones unharmed — is called epigallocatechin-3-gallate, EGCG for short.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t immediately apparent to the researchers how EGCG acts on cancer cells.
Writing in a recent edition of the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, the researchers postulated that EGCG causes mitochondria within cancer cells to suffer damage severe enough to trigger apoptosis — cell suicide.
Cells — including cancerous ones — feature a self-destruct mechanism that activates when a cell becomes damaged beyond the point of repair.
Cancer cells are in this category, but they don’t kill themselves. The reason why is that the disease reprograms the self-destruct system and fools it into thinking the cancerous cell is actually a healthy one and that everything is fine.
EGCG evidently counteracts that bit of deception and causes the cancerous cell to see itself for what it actually is — damaged and desperately needing to be destroyed.
The researchers believe EGCG accomplishes this by causing reactive oxygen species to form inside the cancer cell’s mitochondria. That initial burst of reactive oxygen species then causes the cancer cell to produce them in even larger numbers.
This, in turn, leads to an even greater number of reactive oxygen species. On and on it goes until the cell is overwhelmed and has no options left but to begin apoptosis.
Doom For Mesothelioma
But that’s not all. As the reactive oxygen species mushroom within, the cancer cell increasingly loses its ability to express antioxidant genes that could help it stop the reactive oxygen species in their tracks.
The scientists noted that this destruction doesn’t take place inside normal healthy cells. Much to their surprise, the opposite occurred.
The EGCG appeared to beef up the healthy cells’ ability to resist becoming corrupted by neighboring cancer cells.
To arrive at their findings, the researchers grew cancer cells in the lab. They then exposed them to EGCG at concentrations typically found in saliva after a few minutes of chewing green tea gum.
They also subjected healthy cells to EGCG and observed the comparative reaction.
The researchers want now to study EGCG’s effect on cancers in mice or other lab animals. From there, they plan to test their EGCG theories on people with cancer.
The researchers think EGCG eventually could be used to not only treat many different cancers but also help diminish the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy.