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Can Green Tea Help Battle Leukemia?

Early clinical trials show that an active chemical in green tea known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) may help fight leukemia.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic, an internationally renowned non-profit medical practice headquartered in Rochester, Minnesota, published the results of their study in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The researchers recruited 33 individuals with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) for the study.

CLL is the most common type of leukemia in the United States, with around 8,100 new diagnoses a year.

The condition is characterized by an accumulation of abnormal lymphocytes in the blood and the bone marrow.  It can result in a number of complications such as immune system deficiency, coagulation problems, swollen lymph nodes, and early death. There is currently no cure for CLL.

The study participants received between 400 and 2,000 mg of EGCG orally twice a day for one month.

At the end of the study, 92% of the patients who began the study with enlarged lymph nodes saw a 50% or greater decline in their lymph node size.  One third of the all the participants saw a reduction in lymphocyte count.

Due to these positive results, the researchers have already begun phase 2 of the study which includes the same amount of participants. During this phase, however, all of the participants will receive the highest dose of EGCG administered in the previous trial (2,000mg).

These trials are the latest step in a multiyear project which began with laboratory tests on animals then cancerous human cells.

EGCG is just one of the four main types of powerful antioxidants in tea. All four have been linked to reduced risk of heart attack, stroke and certain cancers and protection against Alzheimer's.

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