By Terri Mitchell
|LE Magazine April 2004|
Powerful Protection Against Prostate Cancer
By Terri Mitchell
Good news for men concerned about prostate cancer: resveratrol is a supplement that blocks it at every stage, from beginning to end. A polyphenol found in grapes and other plants, resveratrol was first identified as a multistage protector in 1997,1 and now is considered a leading agent against prostate cancer by researchers at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center and other institutions.2,3 Resveratrol works through more than a dozen different anticancer mechanisms and selectively targets cancer cells. This single supplement modulates hormones, has several mechanisms that stop cancer cells from multiplying, and even has the ability to destroy cancer cells.
Resveratrol originally gained notice when researchers suggested that it is the agent in wine that protects against heart disease. Because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, resveratrol also was investigated as a possible anticancer supplement. Since research began in earnest in the 1990s, resveratrol has been the subject of hundreds of scientific papers, making it one of the most intensely studied supplements on the market today.
In one review of resveratrol, University of Wisconsin researchers set out six criteria for a good anticancer agent: it should a) have no toxic effects in healthy cells; b) work against different types of cancers; c) be administered orally; d) have known mechanisms of action; e) be inexpensive; and f) be acceptable to humans.4 Resveratrol met all six criteria.
The best approach to cancer is prevention. By augmenting the body’s natural scavenging and repair mechanisms, cancer cells can be prevented from forming and destroyed immediately if they do. If one has been treated for cancer already, preventing recurrence is paramount. Resveratrol is a “chemopreventive” supplement that prevents DNA damage and destroys cancer cells from the earliest to the latest stages in both human and animal experimental models.
One remarkable aspect of resveratrol is that it can be very toxic to cancer cells but does not harm healthy cells; in fact, a person taking resveratrol for protection against prostate cancer may receive cardiovascular benefits as a side effect.
Another important aspect of resveratrol is that it may be combined with other phytofactors to potentially enhance its effects. Resveratrol naturally occurs with other polyphenols such as quercetin in plants such as grapes. Quercetin may enhance resveratrol’s bioavailability and cancer-killing effects.6,7 Another plant extract, indole-3-carbinol, or I3C, may work synergistically with resveratrol to kill more cancer cells because I3C stops cell growth at one point in the cell cycle while resveratrol stops it at another point.8,9 Physicians employ this same concept when prescribing combinations of chemotherapeutic drugs for their patients—each drug halts cancer cell growth at a different stage of the growth cycle.
Researchers who have studied the effects of grape extract containing resveratrol and quercetin in advanced human prostate cancer cells that were transplanted into rodents have proposed these agents as a possible therapy for prostate cancer in humans, though such therapies have not yet been tried.10 After studying the effects of grape seed extract on advanced prostate cancer cells, researchers at the University of Colorado concluded that combining the extract with a natural cancer-killing cytokine (tumor necrosis factor) “might prove to be a more effective and less toxic alternative in clinical therapy of prostate cancer.”3 In another study that examined different types of prostate cancer cells, resveratrol was the most potent of all polyphenols tested against advanced prostate cancer cells.11
Austrian researchers report that resveratrol works through a tamoxifen-like mechanism to block bone cells’ ability to respond to messages from cancer in other parts of the body, potentially preventing cancer from spreading to the bone.12 While resveratrol alone is a powerful polyphenol, combining it with other plant-derived compounds may further enhance its strength. Researchers increasingly are requesting grants to study such combinations of phytocompounds.13
Taking Aim at Hormones
Cutting-Edge Therapeutic Action
Resveratrol and its related polyphenols also protect DNA, block cancer-causing chemicals and radiation, and fight free radicals and inflammation. They have been shown to be more powerful against some types of radicals than vitamins C and E.39-41 Resveratrol activates the same anticancer gene activated by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).42 In a recent study, resveratrol, along with quercetin and curcumin, emerged as the most powerful anticancer agents from 22 compounds that were subjected to a battery of tests, including their ability to suppress ornithine decarboxylase, scavenge free radicals, and counteract carcinogens.
Prostate Cancer and Diet
In European countries such as France and Switzerland where cattle hormone implants are banned, the incidence of prostate cancer is 50% less than in the US; in Italy and Greece, it is about 75% below the US rate.58 Italian and Greek men commonly drink red wine, a good source of resveratrol. (Although moderate consumption of red wine may be effective in reducing the risk of prostate cancer, this has not been demonstrated conclusively.)
Resveratrol, on the other hand, has multiple, anti-prostate cancer effects. Resveratrol halts the growth of hormone-positive and -negative cancers; works through multiple mechanisms to stop cancer cells from multiplying; is effective from the earliest to the latest stages of cancer; protects DNA from damage; and may inhibit cancer metastasis. Combined with quercetin and the powerful anti-hormonal agent I3C, resveratrol may be the best cancer-preventive approach available today.