A key component of green tea has shown promise as a non-toxic treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic are now in the second phase of trials with early-stage, asymptomatic patients to explore the potential of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) to strike a blow against this type of leukaemia.
"The benefits we have seen in most CLL patients who use the chemical suggest that it has modest clinical activity and may be useful for stabilising this form of leukaemia, potentially slowing it down," lead author Dr. Tait Shanafelt, a Mayo Clinic hematologist, said in a news release.
Shanafelt's team is slated to present its findings Monday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, in Chicago.
The latest research builds on earlier Mayo lab work from eight years ago, during which EGCG's potential to curtail the survival of CLL leukemia cells was first noted. The current trial marks the first time this green tea extract has been studied in actual patients as a treatment option for an illness that is described as a hybrid between leukaemia and lymphoma.
A total of 42 CLL patients were involved in the phase 2 trial. All were at such an early point in their illness that they were not taking any other treatment.
Nearly one-third showed a 20% or greater drop in their leukaemia cell count after being treated with EGCG.
What's more, almost 70% of the patients who had enlarged lymph nodes saw their node size cut in half or more following treatment, the researchers found.
Yet despite the encouraging findings, the study authors cautioned that EGCG would not ultimately replace chemotherapy. And they expressed hesitancy with respect to any current patient use of the compound while research is ongoing.
"Without a phase 3 clinical trial, we cannot make a recommendation that EGCG be used by CLL patients," co-author Dr Neil Kay, a haematology researcher, said in a news release. "But those who want to take supplements should consult with their oncologists and need to receive appropriate monitoring using laboratory tests." - (HealthDay News, June 2010)