In the war against cancer, we’ve taken many steps forward, thanks to science and treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. But the disease has also found a way to fight back. Some tumors can develop a resistance against chemotherapy, which is why certain scientists are focusing their efforts on creating more chemosensitization drugs. Think of these medications as a chemotherapy assistant: They help to make chemotherapy drugs work more effectively by counteracting the tumor’s resistance on a cellular level.
An exciting field in cancer medicine is the study of substances found in foods and plants. A growing body of research suggests that these natural compounds may have properties that can play an important role in the development of these chemosensitization drugs (1). Case in point: In 2011, a study conducted by Subash D. Gupta, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences revealed that resveratrol — a compound found in red grapes, wine, peanuts, plums, and other plants — can sensitize tumor cells to chemotherapy. (1)
In the study, resveratrol was found to act on cell-signaling molecules in the tumor’s resistance process to make the cancer more sensitive to chemotherapy drugs. (1) Resveratrol was shown to overcome this resistance in a number of different ways: It influenced how the cancer cells grew, communicated with each other, destroyed themselves, and infiltrated healthy cells, among other mechanisms. (1) In the lab, the researchers tested resveratrol on a long list of different types of cancers, including lung, leukemia, myeloma, prostate, oral, and pancreatic cancers. They showed that resveratrol helped make each type of these cells more receptive to chemotherapy. (1)
Although more research on the topic is warranted, these results suggest that the use of resveratrol as a chemosensitizer may be promising. As the study authors write: