ScienceDaily (Aug. 16, 2010) — An extract of green tea appears to have clinical activity with low toxicity in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients who used it in a phase II clinical trial, say researchers at Mayo Clinic.

The findings were presented June 7 during the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). They are the latest in a series of Mayo studies to show promise for use of the chemical epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) — the major component of green tea — in reducing the number of leukemia cells in patients with CLL. Mayo first tested EGCG in a variety of laboratory assays about eight years ago, and it was found to reduce the survival of CLL leukemic cells. This laboratory finding was followed by a successful phase I clinical trial — the first time green tea extract had been studied in CLL patients.

“The benefits we have seen in most CLL patients who use the chemical suggest that it has modest clinical activity and may be useful for stabilizing this form of leukemia, potentially slowing it down,” says Tait Shanafelt, M.D., a Mayo Clinic hematologist and lead author of the study.

“These studies advance the notion that a nutraceutical like EGCG can and should be studied as cancer preventives,” says Neil Kay, M.D., a hematology researcher whose laboratory first tested the green tea extract in leukemic blood cells from CLL patients. “Using nontoxic chemicals to push back cancer growth to delay the need for toxic therapies is a worthy goal in oncology research — particularly for forms of cancer initially managed by observation such as CLL.”

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