The Power of Green Tea

Green tea has a soothing, comforting connotation, and its concentrated power could be able to put pre-cancerous prostate cells in their place.

A drug called polyphenon E, a concentrated extract from green tea leaves, has shown promise in lab and animal studies at controlling pre-cancerous prostate conditions that could develop into prostate cancer. “The green-tea polyphenon stops the cells from multiplying in a crazy, rowdy manner, “said Nagi Kumar, director of cancer chemoprevention at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. “It helps the cells behave like they’re supposed to behave.”

A clinical trial sponsored by Moffitt, in which Lakeland’s Watson Clinic is participating, now is measuring polyphenon’s effect on men. The men being enrolled are those identified through biopsies as having abnormal, excessive growth of prostate cells, called high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia(HGPIN) or atypical small acinar proliferation(ASAP). They aren’t eligible if they have prostate cancer, prostatitis or urinary tract infections.

“This is a way for us to be on the front end of things,” said Noreen McGowan, a registered nurse who heads the clinical trials program at Watson Clinic Center for Research. People are positive about this study and others that focus on prevention, said Susan Collins, a registered nurse supervising the polyphenon E trial there. Patients with HGPIN usually have symptoms and go to their urologists, said Kumar, who is also a professor of oncologic sciences at the University Of South Florida College Of Medicine.

A biopsy discloses cells that can be precursors of prostate cancers. She said 27 percent to 35 percent of men will develop prostate cancer within a year or two if they are at the HGPIN stage. The other condition ASAP for short, sometimes gets called stage zero because it’s almost cancer but isn’t quite there yet, she said. The previous lab and animal trials had positive results in controlling development of cancer from those conditions and in controlling the progression of cancer that developed, Kumar said.

In this clinical trial, men take either the polyphenon E capsule or an inert placebo capsule twice a day. They also take vitamins, Collins said. Neither the men nor the researchers know which patient is given the actual ingredient being tested. After six months, participants’ prostate specific antigen level will be checked and they will get rectal exams.

If those are normal, they continue in the trial for another six months. Previous research led by Kumar, reviewing women’s tea drinking patterns, found a 37 percent reduced breast cancer risk in women younger than 50 who drank three or more cups of green tea or black tea a day. That was in comparison to younger women who didn’t drink tea. That supports a “potential beneficial influence,” but further research is needed to confirm the association she said.

A similar link hasn’t been made with ovarian cancer, but Dr. Patricia Judson, a gynecologic oncologist at Moffitt, said lab research in petri dishes on 12 different cell lines of ovarian cancer found fermented wheat germ extract could kill ovarian cancer cells. The ongoing study of polyphenon E and pre-cancerous prostate cells could assume more importance in view of disagreement about prostate cancer screening and treatment.

Confusion and disagreement exist with HGPIN as well, according to an article in the October 2010 issue of Renal & Urology News. Many urologists ignore its presence completely, wrote Dr. J. Stephen Jones, chairman of the Cleveland Clinic Department of Regional Urology and a professor at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.

If HGPIN is found in multiple places within the prostate, it’s associated with proximately half of patients within the next five years to six years, he said. If an adequate biopsy finds HGPIN in just one place, it may be insignificant.

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