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Apoptosis is a natural process of cell death that contributes to the regulation of cell growth and the prevention of cancer. Dr. Ronan J. Kelly and colleagues at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, provided a review of the biochemistry of apoptosis. These authors reported that apoptosis is inhibited by a protein called survivin. “Survivin has consistently been identified by molecular profiling analysis to be associated with higher tumor grade, more advanced disease, abbreviated survival, accelerated rates of recurrence, and chemotherapy and radiation resistance,” they noted. Thus, treatments that oppose the effects of survivin and increase apoptosis may be valuable for cancer patients.
For leukemia patients, two nutritional products have been identified which increase the rate of apoptosis of cancer cells. The first is resveratrol. Dr. Monika Podhorecka and colleagues at the Medical University of Lublin, Poland, studied the effects of resveratrol on cell cultures of blood and bone marrow from patients with chronic lyphocytic leukemia (CLL). This is the most common form of adult leukemia in western countries. “Despite the recent introduction of many therapeutic regimens, CLL is still an incurable disorder,” the authors noted. As motivation for studying nutritional products, they added, “there is an urgent need to discover novel, less toxic, and more effective drugs for CLL patients.”
Podhorecka and coworkers found that resveratrol was effective both alone and in combination with the purine analog chemotherapy agents fludarabine and cladribine. These standard chemotherapy agents have side effects including nausea, vomiting, hepatic lesions, and opportunistic infections. The authors suggested that lower doses of chemotherapy may be effective when resveratrol is added to the treatment regimen. Resveratrol is found in many foods, and is most commonly associated with grapes and red wine. It is available as a dietary supplement. Reported side effects include insomnia, joint pain, diarrhea, stomach pain, colored urine, flu, and acne.