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Grape Seed Extract Kills Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Grape seed extract shows promise for treating squamous cell cancer.

Grape seed extract is shown to kill squamous cell cancer of the head and neck in mouse studies. In their study, researchers found extracts from the grape seed also left healthy cells unharmed.

Head and neck cancer usually starts in the squamous cells. According to the National Cancer Institute, HPV and tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco, are contributors to the development of the disease that accounts for 3 percent of all cancer in the United States.

In experiments, Dr. Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, found grape seed extract has a "rather dramatic effect" on halting the growth of cancer cells by damaging cancer cells' DNA growth pathways.

“Cancer cells are fast-growing cells,” Agarwal says. “Not only that, but they are necessarily fast growing. When conditions exist in which they can’t grow, they die.” He also explains grape seed extract showed no toxicity in treated mice.

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“I think the whole point is that cancer cells have a lot of defective pathways and they are very vulnerable if you target those pathways. The same is not true of healthy cells,” Agarwal says. The study is published in the journal Carcinogenesis.

Agarwal's team plans to take the finding to clinical trials to see if grape seed extract would be beneficial as a second-line treatment for head and neck cancer that fails to respond to treatment.

Carcinogeneis: doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgs019
"Generation of reactive oxygen species by grape seed extract causes irreparable DNA damage leading to G2/M arrest and apoptosis selectively in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cells"
Sangeeta Shrotriya, et al.
January 19, 2012

National Cancer Institute
Head and Neck Cancers Fact Sheet

Image credit: Wikimedia commons