With Roche's Herceptin, green tea component doubles drug accumulation in cancer cells

Camellia sinensis, or green tea

A team from the Singapore-based Agency for Science, Technology and Research has found that a component of green tea has the potential to act as a nano-sized drug delivery vehicle to encapsulate proteins used to fight cancer.

In animal studies, used with Roche ($RHHBY) and Genentech's breast cancer drug Herceptin, the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) reduced tumor growth more effectively and the drug accumulated twice as much in cancer cells, a testament to its targeting ability.

And what's more, the delivery vehicle reduced the accumulation in healthy organs by as much as 70% in the liver and kidney and 40% in the lung. The study was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The antioxidant has been known for its benefits when ingested in tea, but the researchers discovered that the core of the molecule can also encapsulate drugs and proteins. Along with polyethylene glycol, which masks the vehicle as it attacks a tumor, the EGCG molecule prevents the proteins from denaturing before they can do their job, according to a release.

"The numerous health benefits of green tea have inspired us to utilize it in drug delivery systems," lead author Jackie Ying said in a statement. "This is the first time that green tea has been used as a material to encapsulate and deliver drugs to cancer cells. Our green tea nanocarrier not only delivered protein drugs more effectively to the cancer cells, the combination of carrier and drug also dramatically reduced tumor growth compared with the drug alone. This is an exciting breakthrough in nanomedicine."

Along with its cancer indications, the team is looking into the molecule's potential for personal care and nutritional products.

- here's the release
- and here's the abstract