Researchers from the School of Pharmacy at De Montfort University,
Leicester, UK, have found that resveratrol is converted in the
body to a known anti-cancer agent that can selectively target
and destroy cancer cells. Although previous studies have suggested
that this phytoestrogen might prevent cancer, they said it was
the "first time that scientists had gained an insight into the
underlying mechanism of the chemicals anti-cancer properties."
Professor Gerry Potter, the research group leader, said: "Resveratrol
is a defensive molecule against fungus in grapes and other crops,
and is found at higher levels in those which have not been treated
with man-made fungicides. Resveratrol is processed by the enzyme
CYP1B1, which is found in a variety of different tumours. This
converts resveratrol into piceatannol, a closely related phytoestrogen
with known anti-cancer activity. Previous research by the team
has shown that this process is restricted to the tumour itself,
limiting the toxicity to the cancer cells and serving to selectively
Scientists previously believed that CYP1B1 was a cause of cancer,
because it is only found in tumours and not in healthy tissue.
They now think the enzyme is there to fight it and the team is
continuing research into ways it works. "The belief that CYP1B1
is a cause of cancer is like blaming police for a crime just because
they are on the scene," Potter said. "We suspected this natural
product might have cancer preventative properties. This research
shows just how it could prevent tumours developing by producing
these anti-cancer molecules within the cancer cells themselves."
Source: British Journal of Cancer 2002;5.