News Release: Research

Dec. 18,  2009

Green Tea Extract Featured in Winship Clinical Trial

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Green tea is not just for break-time at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.  By combining an established cancer drug with green tea extract, researchers hope to determine if the combination is helpful in reducing head and neck cancer risk.

Dong Moon Shin, MD, is principal investigator on a clinical trial that combines an extract from green tea leaves with Erlotinib, a drug that has been used for many years to treat non-small cell lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.   

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 48,000 Americans will be diagnosed with some form of head and neck cancer this year. “This is an important Phase I clinical trial that will look at how effective this combination is in patients with pre-cancerous lesions of the head and neck,” says Shin. 

Patients with head and neck cancer typically exhibit high levels of a protein called Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR). EGFR is an important component in the growth of tumor cells. Drugs like erlotinib, which block EGFR, are therefore a promising approach to preventing some cancers.  

In addition, several studies suggest that polyphenon E (PPE), which is extracted from green tea leaves, may be helpful in reducing human cancer risk. Laboratory experiments suggest that combining erlotinib with green tea PPE may prevent cancer development by targeting different activities within pre-cancerous cells. “We will test the combination of erlotinib and green tea PPE in patients with pre-cancerous lesions of the head and neck,” says Shin. 

The majority of head and neck cancers arise from the soft tissues of the mouth, throat, and voice box. Symptoms can include a sore throat, soreness in the mouth or tongue, difficulty swallowing and a changing voice. Often patients can see white spots (leukoplakia) on the tongue or in the mouth cavity, which need to be examined by a dentist or head and neck cancer specialist.

“Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world,” says Shin. “Despite improvements in surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the survival rate has not improved much in the past 30 years. So development of a new approach to prevent this disease is highly desirable.” 

For more information on this clinical trial, please contact Ms. Kimberly Gibson at 404-778-1804 or Kgibso3@emory.edu.  

Originally posted on Dec. 1, 2009

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