Red wine compound helps kill off cancer cells, new study finds

Red wine is poured from a bottle.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

A new study is touting the cancer-fighting benefits of a compound found in red wine -- but it’s not exactly a license to drink.

Dr. Michael Nicholl, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Missouri, is exploring new ways to use the compound resveratrol to make radiation treatment more effective at killing cancer cells.

When high doses of resveratrol are combined with radiation treatment, the one-two punch has a potent synergistic effect, and “we thought that was pretty exciting,” Nicholl told The Times on Monday.

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He said that although there is much more research to be done, he believes that resveratrol cripples a cancer cell’s ability to recover after a dose of radiation.

“When resveratrol is given, normal recovery [in the cancer cells] is taken away,” he said, meaning it makes it easier for the radiation to do the job of killing off those cells.

But hold on.

Though the study appears to twin with findings suggesting the heart-health benefits found in moderate consumption of red wine, it doesn’t mean you should drink more or take resveratrol supplements.


“When you take [resveratrol] by mouth, you don’t get very high blood levels of it,” Nicholl said.

There are also side effects of oral resveratrol supplements, such as intestinal distress, bloating and diarrhea.

The next level of research, Nicholl said, will delve into finding a way to safely and effectively deliver resveratrol into the cancerous tissues. His findings were published recently in the Journal of Surgical Research.



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