In the study, the red-wine compound resveratrol was used to treat melanoma cells, resulting in 44% of the tumor cells being killed. When the melanoma was treated with both resveratrol and radiation, 65% of the tumor cells were killed.
“Our study investigated how resveratrol and radiotherapy inhibit the survival of melanoma cells,” said Dr. Michael Nicholl, assistant professor of surgery at the MU School of Medicine. “This work expands upon our previous success with resveratrol and radiation in prostate cancer.”
“Because of difficulties involved in delivery of adequate amounts of resveratrol to melanoma tumors, the compound is probably not an effective treatment for advanced melanoma at this time,” Nicholl noted.
The MU doctor said his team’s findings, which were published in the Journal of Surgical Research, could pave the way for more studies into the cancer-fighting properties of the naturally-occurring compound.
“We’ve seen glimmers of possibilities, and it seems that resveratrol could potentially be very important in treating a variety of cancers,” Nicholl said. “It comes down to how to administer the resveratrol. If we can develop a successful way to deliver the compound to tumor sites, resveratrol could potentially be used to treat many types of cancers.”
“Melanoma is very tricky due to the nature of how the cancer cells travel throughout the body, but we envision resveratrol could be combined with radiation to treat symptomatic metastatic tumors, which can develop in the brain or bone,” he added.
While resveratrol supplements are readily available at many stores, Nicholl does not advise that patients depend on them to treat any form of cancer.
Barring any setbacks over the next few years of testing, officials from the University of Missouri expect to request permission from the federal government to start developing a drug to treat cancer in humans. After this approval has been granted, the MU researchers plan to hold clinical trials with the expectation of creating new treatments for cancer.
The Missouri study comes after a UK-funded study published earlier this month found resveratrol is still effective after being metabolized by the body. The study revealed that enzymes within cells reform resveratrol from its metabolized parts -- indicating that cellular levels of the compound are higher than previously thought.
“It has been known for many years that resveratrol is rapidly converted to sulfate and glucuronide metabolites in humans and animals, meaning the plasma concentrations of resveratrol itself quickly become very low after administration,” explained Karen Brown, a pharmaceutical chemist at the University of Leicester and co-author of the UK study.
“Our study was the first to show that resveratrol can be regenerated from sulfate metabolites in cells and that this resveratrol can then have biological activity that could be useful in a wide variety of diseases in humans,” Brown added. “Overall, I think our findings are very encouraging for all types of medical research on resveratrol. They help to justify future clinical trials where, previously, it may have been difficult to argue that resveratrol can be useful in humans because of the low detectable concentrations.”