A study published last week in the journal Carcinogenesis reports findings that grape seed extract (GSE) effectively kills head and neck cancer cells while leaving other cells unharmed.
Researchers hope that the findings will help to alleviate the nearly 12,000 people who die of the cancers in the United States and the nearly half a million worldwide each year.
GSE creates conditions unfavorable to rapid cell growth like that of cancer cells. It also damages the cancer cell DNA by increasing reactive oxygen and keeps the cells from being able to repair themselves, according to the research.
“Cancer cells are fast-growing cells,” says Rajesh Agarwal, Ph.D., investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. “Not only that, but they are necessarily fast growing. When conditions exist in which they can’t grow, they die.”
The researchers used mouse models to experiment with GSE and noted that while it was destructive to the cancer cells, there was no resulting toxicity to healthy cells.
“I think the whole point is that cancer cells have a lot of defective pathways and they are very vulnerable if you target those pathways. The same is not true of healthy cells,” Agarwal says.
Agarwal says his lab hopes to move in the direction of clinical trials of GSE, potentially as an addition to second-line therapies that target head and neck squamous cell carcinoma that has failed a first treatment.