Green tea has a reputation for being a healthy alternative to ‘normal’ tea. It has been touted as possessing health promoting properties that may even protect against cancer. This may be due to the presence of cancer-fighting compounds called antioxidants. Until now there was very little evidence to support this idea but a new study from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota suggests that green tea may help treat a type of leukaemia called chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). Four CLL patients at the Mayo Clinic decided to drink green tea or take green tea extracts in response to hearing reports that it may contain a compound that kills CCL cancer cells. Of these four, three showed clear improvement in their condition within months. These patients had exhibited a steady progression of the disease before they started taking green tea products and showed signs of improvement shortly afterwards. Although spontaneous remission or regression is occasionally observed in individuals with CLL, such events are rare. These preliminary results have prompted researchers at the May Clinic to begin clinical trials. In 2000, there were 6,800 new cases of leukaemia in the UK. CLL has no known cure and affects each individual differently; some patients may live for decades without treatment, while others may need immediate chemotherapy and some die within months despite therapy.
Shanafelt TD, Lee YK, Call TG, Nowakowski GS, Dingli D, Zent CS and Kay NE. 2006. Clinical effects of oral green tea extracts in four patients with low grade B-cell malignancies. Leukaemia Research. 30 (6) 707-712.