Does Red Wine Fight Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer may react better to radiation after exposed to a compound in red wine

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) You may have heard that a glass of red wine a day is good for your heart. Research now shows that the beneficial compound found in red wine may also help fight prostate cancer.

Resveratrol is the element found in grape skins and red wine that has been shown to help cardiovascular health and stroke prevention. The compound may also make prostate tumor cells more likely to respond to radiation treatment, according to a recent study.

"Ask your oncologist about red wine benefits."

Michael Nicholl, MD, an assistant professor of surgical oncology in the Missouri University School of Medicine in Columbia, wanted to find out how resveratrol would affect prostate cancer cells and what effect it would have on radiation therapy. Previous studies had already shown that resveratrol made tumor cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy.

Dr. Nicholl and his research team found that introducing resveratrol into human prostate tumor cells greatly increased the activity of two proteins—perforin and granzyme B.

These proteins are found in low levels in prostate tumor cells. When these two proteins are highly “expressed,” however, they kill tumor cells.

After introducing the resveratrol to the cells, the scientists treated them with radiation. Dr. Nicholl found that up to 97 percent of these tumor cells died compared to 40 to 60 percent of tumor cells that were treated with radiation alone. The percentage of cell death depended on the radiation dose.

"The cells we’re looking at are normally very hardy. Following the resveratrol-radiation treatment, we realized that we were able to kill many more tumor cells when compared with treating the tumor with radiation alone,” said Dr. Nicholl. “It's important to note that this killed all types of prostate tumor cells, including aggressive tumor cells.”

Dr. Nicoll told the dailyRx News, “In theory, resveratrol can be given with a full dose of radiation to enhance tumor killing or with a lower dose of radiation to limit radiation side effects. I hope to use resveratrol in humans; however, a suitable vehicle for delivery must be first developed.”

While ingesting red wine and grapes may have some benefit on the prostate, Dr. Nicholl has said that patients would probably not be able to get enough resveratrol this way to help kill cancer cells. The amount needed to have an effect on tumor cells is so great that many people would experience uncomfortable side effects. These side effects could include gastrointestinal discomfort or diarrhea.

"We don't need a large dose at the site of the tumor, but the body processes this compound so efficiently that a person needs to ingest a lot of resveratrol to make sure enough of it ends up at the tumor site,” said Dr. Nicholl. “Because of that challenge, we have to look at different delivery methods for this compound to be effective. It's very attractive as a therapeutic agent since it is a natural compound and something that most of us have consumed in our lifetimes."

About one in six men will develop prostate cancer at some point in their lives.

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men,” said Dr. Nicholl, “so there are a lot of people’s lives we could potentially effect and improve. We think that our results are going to be translatable into other tumors. We have some preliminary data that suggests that it may be as effective in melanoma and pancreatic cancer.”

Researchers plan to begin clinical trials within the next few years. The study was published in the July/August of the Journal of Andrology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 29, 2012
Last Updated:
February 26, 2013