Green tea substance may help fight cancer

Researchers from Italy and the Moffitt Cancer Center are testing the properties of green tea in the prevention and fight against prostate cancer.

According to the researchers, the substance Polyphenon E found in the tea may be able to stop the progression of prostate cancer and prevent it as well. Researchers are conducting studies to see if the substance could provide a major new breakthrough in the fight against cancer.

The project is led by Nagi Kumar, director of nutrition research at Moffitt and associate professor in the College of Medicine at the University.The study also includes researchers from other schools, such as Folakemi Odedina, a professor at Florida A&M University.

“If we do discover that green tea prevents prostate cancer, it would be a huge step forward,” Odedina said.

Odedina’s work with the green tea project led her to make the preventive aspect of medicine as the key to curing cancer the project’s objective.

“Prevention is always the way to go. That’s the key for making everybody healthy,” Odedina said.

The project studies what Theresa Crocker, an associate professor in the College of Medicine and research coordinator, called a “a very specific group of men” diagnosed with High-Grade Prostatic Intraepithelial Neoplasia  (HGPIN), a rare precancerous condition.

Crocker said anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of men affected with the condition will go on to develop prostate cancer.

“There is significant evidence from testing on animals and in vitro studies, which are studies done in the lab, that show and suggest that green tea has certain properties that help prevent prostate cancer,” Crocker said.

This comes as encouraging news for men between 30 and 80 years of age who have been diagnosed with HGPIN and volunteered for yearlong testing, she said. The new research provides them with the hope of stopping prostate cancer. According to the Cambridge Biomedical Research Group, 240 men volunteered at Moffitt.

After signing a consent form, half of the subjects are given green tea and the other half are given a placebo, Crocker said. The patients don’t know which substance they have been given.

Patients take it twice daily for a year and keep a log. They also have to see the doctors at Moffitt once a month for safety screenings.

Crocker said the patients are paid for their time and travel, and are automatically taken off the project after volunteering for a year.

The green tea project is purely a Phase 2 project, Crocker said. This means the project is specifically about gauging the product’s safety and effectiveness before it is released.

Every kind of cancer screening is divided into phases. Phase 1 is when researchers test the drug on animals, as required by the Food and Drug Administration. Crocker didn’t specify what animals her team used for testing, but said that the kind of animal tested varies from study to study.

Phase 3, the final phase, is about finding the necessary dose of the drug before its release into mainstream society.

So far, Crocker said the results of the research haven’t been as encouraging as she would like.

“We don’t have any results yet — this is a very challenging project. We have a very small pool of people to recruit from, because we only need people that have HGPIN, and they are hard to find,” she said.

Since the study started last year, patients haven’t noticed any changes in their condition, Crocker said.

“The study is funded for five years, and we have four more years left. Funding started in 2006, but we only started recruiting in 2008, so we are funded through 2013,” she said.

As long as there is funding, the researchers will continue recruiting and continue to fight against cancer and encourage prevention, she said.