Penn State Researchers Find Green Tea May Kill Oral Cancer

The next time you’re drinking green tea, you may just be preventing oral cancer. According to Penn State food scientists, a compound in the tea may trigger a cycle that not only kills oral cancer cells, but also keeps healthy ones alive.

The compound, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG for short, may trigger a process in the mitochondria that leads to cell death.

“EGCG is doing something to damage the mitochondria and that mitochondrial damage sets up a cycle causing more damage and it spirals out, until the cell undergoes programmed cell death,” said Joshua Lambert, an associate professor of food science and the Co-Director of Penn State’s Center for Plant and Mushroom Foods for Health.

The study conducted at Penn State builds on earlier research on EGCG’s effects on oral cancer, which is expected to kill over 8,000 people in the United States in 2015.

Lambert mentions that the next likely step would be to study the mechanism in animals. If such tests prove to be a success, the researchers hope to create anti-cancer treatments in the future that are as effective as current ones, without the harmful side effects.

“The problem with a lot of chemotherapy drugs — especially early chemotherapy drugs — is that they really just target rapidly-dividing cells, so cancer divides rapidly, but so do cells in your hair follicles and cells in your intestines, so you have a lot of side effects,” said Lambert. “But you don’t see these sorts of side effects with green tea consumption.”

Hopefully, further research regarding the benefits of green tea will continue to prove successful and beneficial in the field of cancer research. These studies conducted by Penn State food scientists are certainly a step in the right direction.

Photo: Hailey Rohn/Onward State

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Carolyn Popescu

Current senior studying Advertising and Visual Arts, Carolyn has a passion for entertainment and music. She also loves photography, film, graphic design, social media, and all things in between. She's the current Sony Music Marketing Representative for State College, so be sure to reach out to her with any local music scene questions, ideas, proposals, or if you just need someone to geek out about music with. (Contact her through [email protected] or [email protected])

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