By Grace Dobush
October 8, 2018

While the cancer preventative properties of the chemical compound resveratrol, found in grape skin and seeds, has been demonstrated for the digestive tract, it had so far shown no effect on lung cancers. But now Swiss researchers have found the common component of red wine may have lung-cancer-fighting powers when inhaled.

A new study from the University of Geneva published in the journal Scientific Reports showed positive results in using inhaled resveratrol to combat lung cancer in mice. “We observed a 45% decrease in tumor load per mouse in the treated mice. They developed fewer tumors and of smaller size than untreated mice,” researcher Muriel Cuendet said in a statement. When comparing the two groups that were not exposed to carcinogens, 63% of the mice treated did not develop cancer, compared to only 12.5% of the untreated mice. “Resveratrol could therefore play a preventive role against lung cancer,” she said.

Inhaling resveratrol seems to be key in preventing lung cancer. When ingested, it’s metabolized and eliminated within minutes, unable to reach the lungs. “Our challenge was to find a formulation in which resveratrol could be solubilized in large quantities, even though it is poorly soluble in water, in order to allow nasal administration,” said researcher Aymeric Monteillier. The resveratrol concentration in the lungs after inhaled was 22 times higher than when taken orally.

Next, the University of Geneva research team will focus on finding a biomarker that could help identify people eligible for preventive treatment with resveratrol. Because it is a well-known molecule found in food supplements, no further toxicological study would be needed prior to commercialization, the researchers said. “This discovery is unfortunately of little economic interest to pharmaceutical groups. The molecule is indeed simple and non-patentable,” Cuendet said.

One safety note: The study’s authors did not suggest that human wine drinkers should snort red wine.

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