Caffeine boost in cancer battleCoffee and chocolate could form the basis of new drugs to treat cancer, heart disease and inflammation, British scientists say. As reported in CNN Online,Scientists at University College London have found that caffeine and a related molecule called theophylline can block an enzyme that is crucial for cell growth, Reuters reports.
Thus modified forms of caffeine could possibly be used in the future to stop uncontrolled cell growth in cancer or prevent blood clots which cause heart attack and strokes. Caffeine and theophylline are both found in coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate.
"Alongside possible advances in cancer treatment, this research suggests that caffeine type drugs could be used to treat heart disease and inflammatory illnesses," Professor Peter Shepherd and his colleagues said in a statement. But the researchers said chocolate and coffee were not cures for cancer and warned people against overdosing on caffeine. "The message to the general public is not to overdose on chocolate or coffee. Caffeine has well/known side effects that make it inappropriate for drug use," Shepherd said. "The study relied on using high concentrations of caffeine that would be unhealthy for human use," he added.
"The next stage of our research will be to develop compounds which mimic the structure of caffeine but without its negative effects." The researchers used genetically engineered insect cells to produce an enzyme called p110 delta, which is crucial for cell growth.
Their report in the Journal of Biological Chemistry said caffeine and theophylline blocked the enzyme's function. P110 delta is found mostly in white blood cells, so it could be particularly useful in treating cancers like leukaemia and for inhibiting white blood cells that cause inflammation, Shepherd told Reuters. Theophylline has been used for years as an asthma drug, but nobody really knew how it worked, he said.
The enzyme is one of a group of molecules known as PI 3/kinases, which has become a focus of interest for major pharmaceutical companies.
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