Scientists Uncover How Alcohol Fuels Cancer Growth

December 14, 2004

Drinking alcohol has been linked to cancers of the esophagus, stomach,liver and even breast (if a woman is low in folic acid). It is also associated with a quicker metastasis of colon cancer. In this study researchers have uncovered at least part of the alcohol-cancer connection. Drinking alcohol increases levels of vascular endothelial growth factor or VEGF - a growth factor involved in many cancers. VEGF creates blood vessels that feed and foster the growth of a cancerous tumor. Researchers injected chick embryos that contained cancer cells with either alcohol or saline-water for 9 days. The alcohol level matched normal human alcohol intake. The embryos exposed to alcohol had about 8 times as many cancer cells circulating in their blood vessels than the embryos exposed to salt-water. The tumors were significantly bigger and they had a significantly greater concentration of blood vessels to supply them. VEGF was also elevated. The study is published in the January 15th, 2005 issue of the journal Cancer.

Commentary by Jerry Hickey, R.Ph.

VEGF is involved in the growth of many cancers, even some lymphomas. VEGF is inhibited by specific polyphenols already known for their ability to thwart cancer. These phytochemicals include the soy isoflavone Genestein, the grape skin antioxidant Resveratrol, the herb Turmeric, and the green tea antioxidant EGCG.

Resveratrol Protects the Heart Muscle From Damage Due to High Blood Pressure or Heart Failure

Scientists have uncovered a new and important benefit to the already remarkably protective phytonutrient Resveratrol. Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in the skin of red grapes and in red wine. Resveratrol has demonstrated a number of activities that protect the brain, liver, kidneys, adrenal glands, thyroid, pancreas, blood vessel walls, and lungs, It also has a number of anticancer activities. This new research shows how important this novel antioxidant may be in protecting the heart.

This current research shows how Resveratrol protects the heart from hardening and fiber build up that is a devestating consequence of high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. A hormone known as angiotensin II is produced by the kidneys in high amounts by both high blood pressure and heart failure. This hormone is released to help repair damage to the heart muscle, but actually causes damage by increasing the level of fibroblast activity. Fibroblasts are cells that create connective tissue, an important component in the healing process. The excessive activity by these cells creates so much connective tissue that the heart muscle begins to stiffen and looses some of its blood pumping ability. As the heart stiffens more and more over time it looses its pumping ability and the heart has to work harder, leading to a cycle of worsening damage. Researchers at Ohio State University, and Northeastern Ohio State College of Medicine have found that adding resveratrol to heart tissue bloked the activity of the hormone angiotensin in the heart muscle and prevented the damgae caused by excessive fibroblast activity. The resveratrol limited the effects of cardiac fibrosis or hardening of the heart muscle. The study is published recently online in the American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology and was supported in part by a grant from the American Heart Association, Ohio Valley Affiliate