Green tea consists of a polyphenol, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which may help kill oral cancer cells, without touching the healthy cells, according to researchers at Penn State. researchers found that EGCG may trigger a process in the mitochondria that leads to cell death.
Researchers studied normal human oral cells along with human oral cancer cells to determine how EGCG was affecting cancer cells differently than normal cells. They grew the normal and cancer cells on petri dishes and then exposed them to EGCG at concentrations typically found in the saliva after chewing green-tea chewing gum. Researchers collected the cells and checked for oxidative stress and signs of antioxidant response.
They found that a protein called sirtuin 3 (SIRT3) was critical to the process, so the idea that EGCG might selectively affect the activity of SIRT3 in cancer cells, to turn it off, and in normal cells, to turn it on, was probably applicable in multiple kinds of cancers.
Associate professor Joshua Lambert said, "The next step would be to study the mechanism in animals." If those tests and human trials turn out to be successful, the researchers then hope to create anti-cancer treatments that are as effective as current treatments without the harmful side effects.
The study appears online in the issue of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.