Can Red Wine Help Treat Prostate Cancer?

Resveratrol is often touted as a potent antioxidant with antiaging properties, a natural anti-inflammatory agent, and a potential cancer fighter. Now a new study from a researcher at the University of Missouri suggests resveratrol, a component of red wine, improves prostate cancer treatment, specifically by enhancing the effects of radiation therapy for prostate cancer.

Benefits of resveratrol for prostate cancer patients

Previous studies have shown that resveratrol, which is found in grape skins, red wine, berries, and Japanese knotweed, has several traits that may be helpful in fighting prostate cancer, including evidence it may inhibit prostate cancer cell growth and also make tumor cells more susceptible to chemotherapy.

Other research has indicated that resveratrol has cardiovascular benefits that include an ability to reduce platelet aggregation, modulate the metabolism of cholesterol and triglycerides, and relax blood vessels, which improves blood flow. Investigators also have shown that resveratrol is “effective in improving glycemic control,” suggesting it could possibly be a “potential adjuvant for the treatment and management of diabetes.”

Resveratrol and prostate cancer

News that resveratrol may help boost the benefits of radiation treatment for men with prostate cancer is important because it could increase men’s chances of recovering from the disease. The discovery came when Michael Nicholl, assistant professor of surgical oncology in the MU School of Medicine, found that exposing prostate tumor cells to resveratrol plus radiation treatment killed up to 97 percent of the tumor cells, which was much greater than the number killed by radiation alone.

The secret behind the higher percentage of prostate cancer cell deaths appears to be associated with two proteins, perforin and granzyme B. When these two proteins are highly triggered into action (“expressed”), they destroy tumor cells.

Nicholl explained that “we found that the resveratrol helped to increase their [the two proteins] activity in prostate tumor cells.” Another significant find was that use of resveratrol along with radiation treatment killed all kinds of prostate cancer cells, including aggressive tumor cells.

The amount of resveratrol men would need to take to have an impact on prostate tumor cells is much greater than what they could take comfortably. Therefore, Nicholl noted that “we have to look at different delivery methods for this compound to be effective.” Now the next step is for resveratrol to be tested in animals, with an eye on human trials in the future.

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.


Bhatt JK et al.Resveratrol supplementation improves glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition Research 2012 Jul; 32(7): 537-41

Fang Y et al. A possible role for perforin and granzyme B in resveratrol-enhanced radiosensitivity of prostate cancer. Journal of Andrology 2012 Jul-Aug; 33(4): 752-60

Voloshyna I et al. Resveratrol in cholesterol metabolism and atherosclerosis. Medicinal Food 2012 Sep; 15(9): 763-73

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