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Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Scientists Create Green Tea-Based Cancer-Seeking 'Missiles'

A ball and stick model of epigallocatechin gallate, a common ingredient found in green tea.

(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

A group of researchers from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore have successfully developed nanocarriers that deliver medicine and eliminate cancer cells more efficiently by using one of the ingredients in green tea.

The crucial constituent in green tea, epigollacatechin gallate, or EGCG for short, is an antioxidant that is known to have therapeutic applications in the treatment of a number of illnesses, including cancer.

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"The numerous health benefits of green tea have inspired us to utilize it in drug delivery systems," said IBN Executive Director Professor Jackie Y. Ying. "This is the first time that green tea has been used as a material to encapsulate and deliver drugs to cancer cells.

She added that the green tea nanocarrier was not only able to deliver protein drugs more effectively to the cancerous cells, but the complexes of the drug and carrier have also reduced the growth of the tumor compared to the performance of the drug alone.

"This is an exciting breakthrough in nanomedicine," Ying said.

Making sure that the drug is delivered to the tumor and preventing damage to nearby healthy organs and tissues is one of the key challenges in chemotherapy. The researchers have focused on creating a more effective drug carrier to solve the problem.

The carriers behave like homing missiles when introduced into the body, moving inside the body to hone in on target cells where they will unload their cancer-eliminating payload.

One of the problem areas in creating a more effective drug carrier is the drug-to-carrier ratio. Particularly, the capacity of a specific carrier limits the amount of the drug it can deliver. Giving a substantial amount of the drug-encapsulating vessels into the body is needed for an effective treatment.

Existing carriers, on the other hand, are made up of compounds that have no therapeutic effects, and may even produce side effects if administered in large quantities.

To address the issue, the researchers have made a therapeutic nanocarrier for  delivering drugs using new substances derived obtained from EGCG. At the center of the carrier is comprised of an oligomer of EGCG, or OEGCG, which has the ability to wrap around medicines and proteins, such as Herceptin, a protein drug presently being given to patients to treat breast cancer.

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