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Green Tea and Leukemia

Mayo Clinic Researchers Claim that Green Tea Compound EGCg Is Effective in Treating Leukemia.

Researchers at the world famous Mayo clinic have found encouraging results along the long road to finding effective treatments for a certain type of leukemia called “chronic lymphocytic leukemia” or CLL.  This type of leukemia currently has no cure and is characterized by typical leukemia symptoms generally matched with abnormal enlargement of the lymph nodes. It is the most common type of leukemia in the United States.

Green Tea and Leukemia

Green Tea and Leukemia

Although the study is ongoing, the researchers claim that a green tea compound known as EGCg, has proven effective in treating the early stages of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The compound is currently being used on a trial basis to treat the disease in early-stage patients who have yet to show the disease’s symptoms. It is important to note that EGCg is the common factor in this study as well as in earlier studies linking green tea to leukemia treatment. And while the compound is present in significant amounts in brewed green tea, it is much more prevalent in whole green tea leaves, as much as 100 times more according to a USDA data sheet.

In the most recent Mayo Clinic trail, 42 patients were treated with EGCg for long periods of time. Since the disease was still in a very early stage in these patients, they did not yet need traditional forms of leukemia treatment such as chemotherapy. In one third of the patients given the compound, a twenty percent reduction in leukemia cell count was observed. Even more importantly, among patients who had enlarged lymph nodes, 70% of them saw a significant reduction in lymph node size. These results are certainly modest, and researchers warn that EGCg is not yet a replacement for Chemotherapy. Nevertheless, the researchers plan to press forward into a phase three critical trial in which they hope their initial findings will be confirmed. Furthermore, they have also expressed hopes that their research may eventually lead to an alternative to chemotherapy. This study is currently ongoing, with the original trial having taken place in 2009 and more trials forthcoming.

In fact, the Mayo Clinic has a history of interest in the anti-leukemia properties of green tea. In 2005, a team of Mayo researchers observed improved conditions in four CLL patients who began taking green tea supplements on a regular basis. Three of the four patients showed significant signs of their cancer regressing within three months. The fourth patient also showed some signs of improvement, but these were too slight to be considered significant.

An even earlier Mayo study, performed in 2004, inspired both of the later studies mentioned above. In this trial, isolated CLL leukemia cells contained in laboratory cultures were subjected to EGCg. The researchers found that the green tea compound was effective in thwarting leukemia cells. By disrupting essential communication signals necessary for their operation, EGCg caused the death of most of the  cells.

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1] http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/639882.html
2] http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/Flav/flav.pdf
3] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090526163010.htm
4] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4551748.stm
5] http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/cgi/reprint/2003-08-2763v1

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