molecular biology: how green tea fights cancer

Studies suggest that green tea has protective effects against many different kinds of cancers, including lung, breast, and prostate. The tea’s benefits have been widely attributed to a powerful antioxidant called EGCG, but researchers were unsure exactly how it worked. Now Hirofumi Tachibana of Japan’s Kyushu University and colleagues report in the April issue of Nature Structural & Molecular Biology that they have discovered that EGCG targets the laminin receptor, a protein found on the surface of tumor cells. The antioxidant binds to the protein and inhibits the cell’s growth. When the team treated human lung cancer cells expressing the protein with EGCG, they found that the growth of cancer cells slowed dramatically. The researchers say their findings suggest that drinking just two or three cups of green tea a day could be enough for EGCG to produce its effects.

This news brief appeared in the Discoveries column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 3/30/2004.
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