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May 31, 2014 01:11 PM EDT

Green Tea May Lower Pancreatic Cancer Risk

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Green tea and its extracts may reduce pancreatic cancer risk, according to a recent study.

Scientists found that EGCG, the active biologic constituent in green tea, changed the metabolism of pancreatic cancer cells by suppressing the expression of an enzyme associated with cancer, LDHA. They also found an enzyme inhibitor, oxamate, which is known to reduce LDHA activity, operated in the same manner: It also disrupted the pancreatic cancer cells metabolic system.

"Scientists had believed they needed a molecular mechanism to treat cancer, but this study shows that they can change the metabolic system and have an impact on cancer," Wai-Nang Lee, corresponding author of the study and a Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) lead researcher, said in a statement. "By explaining how green tea's active component could prevent cancer, this study will open the door to a whole new area of cancer research and help us understand how other foods can prevent cancer or slow the growth of cancerous cells."

For the study, researchers used sophisticated metabolic profiling methods. They found that EGCG disrupted the balance of "flux" throughout the cellular metabolic network. Flux is the rate of turnover of molecules through a metabolic pathway. The researchers found the EGCG disrupted this balance in the same manner that oxamate, a known LDHA inhibitor, did.

Based on this finding, they concluded that both EGCG and oxamate reduced the risk of cancer by suppressing the activity of LDHA, a critical enzyme in cancer metabolism, thereby disrupting the balance in the cancer cells metabolic functions.

"This is an entirely new way of looking at metabolism," Dr. Lee said. "It is no longer a case of glucose goes in and energy comes out. Now we understand how cancer cell metabolism can be disrupted, and we can examine how we can use this knowledge to try to alter the course of cancer or prevent cancer."

The findings were recently published online by the journal Metabolomics.

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