This site is intended for health professionals only

New hope for leukaemia sufferers

People suffering from leukaemia could be helped in their fight against the disease by high doses of green tea extract, new research suggests.

Stark improvements were found in patients who were given a high dosage of the supplement, including a 50% decrease in the size of swollen lymph glands. The 33 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) were given eight different doses of a green tea extract, known as Polyphenon E.

In the early stages of the clinical trial the number of white blood cells in one third of patients was lowered and researchers believe that the active ingredient in the supplement, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), could help combat the cancer.

"We found not only that patients tolerated the green tea extract at very high doses, but that many of them saw regression to some degree of their chronic lymphocytic leukaemia," said the leader of the latest trial, Dr Tait Shanafelt, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

However, although tests in laboratories have shown that EGCG can combat cancer, there have been mixed results in studies of its effects on patients. The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Mayo Clinic