Green tea as a transporter of anti-cancer drugs

Members of the team involved in the green tea research (clockwise from right): Dr Kun Liang, Dr Motoichi Kurisawa, Dr Joo Eun Chung, Dr Shu Jun Gao and Dr Nunnarpas Yongvongsoontorn.
Members of the team involved in the green tea research (clockwise from right): Dr Kun Liang, Dr Motoichi Kurisawa, Dr Joo Eun Chung, Dr Shu Jun Gao and Dr Nunnarpas Yongvongsoontorn.PHOTO: A*STAR'S IBN

Green tea is known to have anti-cancer benefits, and researchers have learnt that an antioxidant - epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate (EGCG) - found in the brew is an excellent transporter of anti-cancer drugs.

The antioxidant allows high doses to be delivered to tumours. A drug nanocarrier made up of EGCG is able to deliver more than eight times the dose carried in current drug carriers.

Nanocarriers work like tiny missiles that zip through the bloodstream to deposit cancer-destroying drugs in tumours.

Current carriers can typically use only 10 per cent of its mass to hold the drugs. And due to their instability, they tend to dissolve in the bloodstream or leak mid-journey, exposing healthy cells to the drugs.

When researchers from A*Star's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology tested a green tea-based nanocarrier filled with an abundant amount of a chemotherapy drug on a mouse, it displayed superior drug delivery and caused minimal side effects.

The chemotherapy drug - Doxorubicin - is used to treat many cancers, such as breast, bladder and liver cancer, as well as leukaemia.

Results from the green tea-Doxorubicin nanocarriers study were published in scientific journal Advanced Materials last year.

The team is testing other anti-cancer drugs in the nanocarrier.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2019, with the headline 'Green tea as a transporter of anti-cancer drugs'. Print Edition | Subscribe