Chocolate may prove potent anti-cancer agent: study

June 17th, 2008 - 7:37 am ICT by IANS  

Washington June 16 (IANS) We have all heard that eating chocolate is good for you — now here’s a study that tells you why. A chemical synthesised out of a cocoa compound has accelerated the killing of human tumours in a lab environment, according to the study by Georgetown University researchers.

The researchers described how four different tumour cell lines out of 16 tested sensitive to the chemical, known as GECGC. The strongest response was seen in two different colon cancers; growth was cut in half and most of the tumour cells were damaged.

GECGC “seems to be safe… because it has a structure similar to a natural product in cocoa beans - the same beans that are used to make chocolate,” said the study’s lead author Min Kim.

Researchers have long studied the beneficial effects of flavanols — molecules in vegetables and fruits that exhibit potent anti-oxidant and potentially anti-tumour properties.

As part of these studies, investigators have been testing a new synthetic version of natural procyanidins, a class of flavanols, created and patented by a confectionery company Mars Incorporated.

In these studies, the scientists tested the effects of three different doses of GECGC on the cancer cell lines — the first time that a synthetic cocoa derivative has been used to screen human cancer cell lines.

None of the doses tested were extreme, Kim pointed out. “The effective concentrations were considered similar to what a person might eat or use,” he said.

They found sensitivity to GECGC in both colon cancer cell lines they tested, in cervical cancer cells and in one line of leukaemia tumour cells. Other cell lines were resistant, including ovarian and prostate cancer cells.

Overall, GECGC showed the most effect in treating cancer cells that are normally fast growing, Kim said. And the fact that it demonstrated the most killing power in colon cancer suggests the chemical “could serve as a promising therapeutic for colon cancer,” he said. “So far, these data are very convincing.”

The researchers do not yet clearly understand the mechanism by which GECGC disrupts tumour growth, but they think it inhibits the physical connections between cancer cells and blocks internal cell signalling pathways.

The findings of the study have been published online Monday in the journal Cell Cycle.

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