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Green Tea Compound Slows Leukemia Cells


A diagnosis of leukemia is a dreaded and frightening one. However, treatments have improved in recent years, and the prognosis for most patients is more hopeful than in the past. One possible treatment that’s been getting a lot of attention lately involves a compound contained in green tea.

Details of the Study

The famous Mayo Clinic is conducting trials with early-stage patients to test whether a chemical in green tea called EGCG will or will not be useful in the treatment of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.

The lead author of the test is Dr. Tait Shanafelt, a Mayo Clinical hematologist. He is already reporting a modest clinical result in stabilizing chronic lymphocytic leukemia and hopefully slowing it down with EGCG.

The potential for this component of green tea was first discovered at Mayo eight years ago. However, the trial that is going on now is the first one to test the effects of the extract on actual patients. It’s being touted as a possible option for treating this hybrid between leukemia and lymphoma.

Forty-two Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia patients are involved in the trial. They were all at the early stages of onset and had not begun taking any other treatment. About 1/3 experienced at least a 20% drop in leukemia cell count after being treated with the extract.

Also, 70% of those with enlarged lymph nodes experienced a 50% reduction in the size of the nodes after the treatment.

The authors don’t want to give people false hopes and are cautioning that chemotherapy will not be replaced by EGCG and refused to discuss any current use of the compound by patients while the research is underway.

The researchers and authors also don’t want to make any kind of recommendation about the use of this compound until a phase-3 clinical trial is complete. On the other hand, for those who want to try the supplements, the authors recommend that they discuss it with their oncologists. It cannot be administered without appropriate monitoring.

What is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia?

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia is one of the four main types of leukemia. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society projected about 15,490 new cases in 2009. The Society also estimates that 85,710 people in the U.S. have this form of leukemia and are either living with it or are in remission.

Most patients are 60 years of age and older. The number begins to increase over age 50. People in their 30s and 40s are sometimes diagnosed but rarely and children don’t get this form. It’s not common for more than one blood relative to come down with this disease but it does happen. Researchers are pursuing these cases in hopes of turning up clues that will help in prevention of the disease.

Most patients live reasonably good-quality lives for years; however, they must be under the care of an oncologist. New therapies have been developed in recent years and many others are being studied in clinical trials along with the trials on EGCG. Researchers are hoping that a cure will be developed in the near future.

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