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Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Caffeine clue to fighting cancer
Chocolate
Compounds in chocolate may fight cancer
Chocolate, cola and coffee could form the basis of new anti-cancer drugs, scientists believe.

Researchers in the UK have found that caffeine and theophylline may be effective in fighting cancer tumours.

Both compounds are found in a range of foods and drinks, including coffee, tea, chocolate and cola.


Hopefully in five to seven years it could lead to a new class of drugs

Professor Peter Shepherd, UCL
According to scientists at University College London, the compounds target an enzyme which helps play a role in the survival and movement of cells.

The scientists genetically engineered insect cells to produce this enzyme, which is called p110 delta.

In laboratory tests, they found that caffeine and theophylline both blocked a key biochemical process crucial to the functioning of the enzyme.

New treatments

Professor Peter Shepherd said the findings could pave the way for new treatments for cancer.

But he warned that research is in its early stages and that the study did not mean people should consume more caffeine in an effort to protect against cancer.

Professor Peter Shepherd
Prof Shepherd said drugs remain a few years off
"We are not saying that drinking lots of coffee will cure cancer but what we have found is a new and novel compound of caffeine," he told the BBC.

"We are saying there are potential good points inside the molecular structure of caffeine that can be taken advantage of but unfortunately for us at the moment the side effects of caffeine mean we couldn't use the caffeine itself as a drug itself as it stands at the moment."

He added: "We are hoping to take this forward now and hopefully in five to seven years it could lead to a new class of drugs."

The study is published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Pallab Ghosh
"Now it seems a morning coffee may also do you good"
Prof. Peter Shepherd, University College London
"This could be the basis of a new drug"
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14 Sep 98 | Health
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