The participants of the research were 4 victims of CLL, the most common type of blood cancer, who were being given drugs containing green tea extract epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). After a certain period of time, a decrease in cancerous cells in their bodies was observed. 3 of the 4 patients expressed improved response to treatment and one had improved white blood cell count. One patient whose lymph nodes had swollen up decreased in size after she started taking green tea pills.
Earlier in 2004, the same team of scientists, led by Dr Tait Shanafelt, had conducted a laboratory research of the influence of EGCG on leukemia cells. The findings were published in a 2004 edition of the journal Blood. It had been discovered that the green tea extract killed the leukemia cells. “The experience of these individuals provides some suggestion that our previously published laboratory findings may actually translate into clinical effects for patients with the disease,” Dr Shanafelt said.
“Green tea has long been thought to have cancer-prevention capabilities. It is exciting that research is now demonstrating this agent may provide new hope for CLL patients,” Dr Shanafelt added. So far, no cure has been found for CLL, a progressing malignancy that usually targets people over 55 years of age. According to Dr Shanafelt, further studies are necessary for establishing the exact process and effect and the quantity of the extract that is optimum.
“We do not know how many patients were taking similar products and failed to have any benefit. We also do not yet know the optimal dose that should be used, the frequency with which patients should take the medication, and what side effects will be observed with long-term administration,” he said. The hematologist is now developing an EGCG pill for the US National Cancer Institute to find out whether the extract could be used to treat patients with CLL.
The medical fraternity expressed optimism at the results of the study, but felt that it might be too early to celebrate. “The findings are interesting, but we cannot say yet this is a new treatment for cancer. We need to carry out a large scale, controlled trial to see if the findings hold true,” said Ken Campbell of United Kingdom’s Leukemia Research Fund. Around 7300 Americans are diagnosed with CLL every year, with men being more subject to the disease than women.