Professor Will Steward, an expert in molecular medicine, has revealed that tests on human cells have shown that drugs made from the foods and wine may reduce the risk of cancer by 40 per cent.
The researcher said that such drugs could be taken like daily vitamins to protect against tumours in the breast, bowel and prostate. He, however, admitted that it was yet to be determined whether the compounds would work in tablet form on the human body.
"These drugs have proved highly effective in the laboratory - it is extraordinary. They act in numerous ways on pre-cancerous cells, but they also appear to be effective on cancerous cells. We know they are safe to use but we want to establish if they are effective in humans," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
"We do not know whether there will be a 40 per cent reduction in risk in the body - it could be more, it could be less," he added. Professor Steward revealed that he identified the compounds while working on drugs that prevent cells from becoming malignant, a technique called chemoprevention.
He said that his study derived inspiration from the findings of a recent research showing that rural populations in Thailand, who consume a diet rich in sticky rice, were less likely to develop breast cancer.
He also revealed that the four compounds—tricin from Thai sticky rice, resveratrol from red wine, curcumin from turmeric, and antioxidants from bilberries called anthocyanins—had been made into tablets, and trials with them had already begun.
While resveratrol tablet made by a Canadian company has been tested on 40 volunteers, curcumin pills have been tried on 80 people with a high risk of colon cancer in Leicester. The effectiveness of the remaining two chemicals is being tested in other trials.
Announcing the developments at the National Cancer Research Institute conference in Birmingham, Professor Steward said that the chemicals appeared to work by entering the nucleus of cells, and altering the way that DNA and other molecules pass around messages that lead to malignancy.
He also said that clinical trials on the drugs would last at least five years.