Friday, May 8, 2009

13-24 of the 101 reasons to drink wine: Anti-cancer properties

13. In order to understand how wine helps prevent cancer, we look at what happens inside of a cell as it takes the first steps toward becoming a cancer and converts from a healthy, productive cell to one out of control. Cancer researchers define three steps in this process, the first of which is called initiation. This includes the mutations in DNA that disrupt the cell's programming. Wine polyphenols protect against these mutations.
14. Carcinogens do their damage by causing mutations. Most of them need to be activated, that is they are converted from a less harmful state by enzymes that normally serve more noble purposes. Wine compounds help prevent carcinogen activation.
15. The second phase of a cell's journey to the dark side is called promotion. These are all of the things that encourage the cell to follow its baser instincts. One of these factors is the enzyme COX-2, which is inhibited by wine-derived compounds.
16. Another aspect of promotion is the ability to bypass a cell's auto-distruct mechanism. Cells typically know when they are to shut down, a process called apoptosis. (For example, the dead skin cells that form a surface barrier have undergone apoptosis, while new ones are continually being made underneath.) Wine compounds have been shown to activate apoptosis pathways in cancer cells.
17. One of the ways that cells know whether or not their time is up is by the presence of anti-apoptotic proteins. Wine helps ramp down levels of these molecules, so that cancer cells lack the necessary encouragement to keep going.
18. A similar process is what are called "activation pathways" which are molecular signals that spur a cell to keep growing and reproducing. Cancer cells have turned up these activation pathways, while wine polyphenols have been shown to counter the effect.
19. After promotion comes progression. This is where things really start getting out of control and the cancer becomes invasive. Growth factor molecules within and between the cells encourage this sort of behavior. Wine polyphenols appear to have the opposite effect.
20. Cancer cells have to develop specific skills in order to invade adjacent tissues. Wine polyphenols have been found to have their own skill set to protect against this.
21. Cancer cells of course have to grow in addition to all of their other misbehaviors. Wine polyphenols have been found in laboratory studies to directly suppress cancer cell growth. Clinical trials are underway to evaluate their role in cancer treatment.
22. As the tumor enlarges, it needs a growing blood supply which in turn requires that new blood vessels form. Certain specific signals facilitate this process (called angiogenesis). Wine polyphenols inhibit the growth of new blood vessels in tumors.
23. Wine polyphenols have some interesting possibilities in treating established cancers. Certain chemotherapy drugs appear to be more effective and with fewer side effects when given with wine polyphenols. This is another area of clinical research.
24. Radiation therapy is another mixed blesssing for cancer patients. The effects on the normal tissues around a tumor can be problematic. Resveratrol, from wine, may have the ability to both enhace the effectiveness of radiation treatments while ameliorating the side-effects.

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