Can chemicals found in food help to prevent cancer?
Professor Will Steward is head of an internationally respected team of researchers based at the University of Leicester. He is finding out if chemicals found in everyday foods could be used to help prevent cancer.
Professor Steward’s team is leading a clinical trial called CUFOX. This trial is testing whether adding a chemical called curcumin, which is found in the spice turmeric, to chemotherapy makes the treatment more effective for people with bowel cancer that has spread.
His team are interested in several chemicals found in fruit and vegetables, including a group of chemicals called flavonoids. These are naturally present in foods such as cocoa, citrus fruits, green tea and red wine. But because these foods only contain low levels of flavonoids, they’re unlikely to help reduce the risk of cancer as part of a normal diet. Professor Steward's team is studying purified flavonoids in the lab, to see if higher levels of the chemicals could be beneficial.
The team is also looking at a chemical called resveratrol – found in grape skins and red wine – to find out if it has anti-cancer effects. They are comparing small doses (similar to those found in foods) and larger doses in people with bowel and prostate cancer, to find out how the body processes the chemical.
So although there’s no one ‘superfood’ that will prevent cancer, Professor Steward’s research will give us clues to harness the power of natural chemicals and protect people from the disease.
You can read more about Professor Steward's research on our Science Update blog.
Other research projects by William Steward
Funding period: 01 July 2011 to 30 September 2016
Pharmacokinetics in mice and metabolism in murine and human liver fractions of the putative cancer chemopreventive agents 3 ',4 ',5 ',5,7-pentamethoxyflavone and tricin (4 ',5,7-trihydroxy-3 ',5 '-dimethoxyflavone)
Cancer Chemother Pharmacol.2011;67 :255-263
Non-invasive assessment of oxidatively damaged DNA: liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry analysis of urinary 8-oxo-7,8-dihydro-2'-deoxyguanosine.
Methods Mol Biol.2011;682 :279-289