University of Leicester eBulletin

Leicester Among World First in Novel Cancer Prevention Trial

November 2002

University of Leicester team pioneer tests of new drug with ‘red wine compound’

Leicester has been selected as one of the first centres in the world to trial a revolutionary new cancer prevention drug, based on a natural compound found in red wine. This will form a major part of the cancer prevention research at the University of Leicester.

cancer trial team members

Cancer researchers from the University’s Department of Oncology, based at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, have been awarded just over £1 million sterling ($1.7 million) along with the University of Michigan. The award, from the US National Cancer Institute (NCI), the major US government body which funds and co-ordinates cancer research, is the first time that a group outside America has been funded by the NCI for the early clinical development of a drug that may prevent cancer.

The money will be used by the Cancer Biomarker and Prevention Group of the University of Leicester, in conjunction with the Comprehensive Cancer Centre at the University of Michigan, to conduct preclinical and clinical evaluation of resveratrol, a natural compound found in red wine.

Professor Will Steward, of the University of Leicester, said: “Resveratrol is a natural agent found in grapes, peanuts and several berries.  It is present in fruit juice from these berries and in wine. Consumption of resveratrol has been proposed as one possible explanation for the low incidence of cardiovascular disease in Southern European countries with high red wine consumption, and resveratrol has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activity in experimental models.”

“Since resveratrol may be of value in preventing cancer, the NCI are funding early clinical studies of pure resveratrol capsules in healthy volunteers and patients with early cancer.  These studies will be conducted in Leicester and at the University of Michigan.”

The principal investigators, in the UK are Professors William Steward, Andreas Gescher and Peter Farmer and Drs David Boocock, David Hemingway and Ricky Sharma.

Professor Steward added: “Over the past four years, the University of Leicester has built up the largest integrated cancer prevention group in Europe.  Laboratory-based scientists and clinicians work closely together to develop novel drugs which have promise for reducing the risk of developing cancer.  This award is a major advance and we hope it will enable us to take resveratrol forward to become a valuable agent to reduce the number of people who develop cancer in the future.”  

The research group attracted international publicity a few years ago when they investigated the cancer-fighting properties of curcumin, an ingredient in curries.  

Professor Steward said: “The Leicester team has been involved with the early clinical development of the potential cancer preventive agent curcumin, derived from the dietary spice turmeric.  Encouraging results are being obtained from this. The Cancer Biomarker and Prevention Group are also planning early clinical development of other dietary constituents that may help in the fight against cancer.”

The principal investigator in the USA, Professor Dean Brenner, said: “The award of this competitive grant by the US NCI is a major achievement. In the USA, such awards are given only to teams who are able to successfully integrate their laboratory research scientists with clinical investigators, and awards made to teams outside the US are rare.” 

“Foreign awards are given only to groups who are able to provide expertise not available in the USA. The successful completion of this contract signifies that the University of Leicester group is considered a world class translational research group and I am thrilled to be able to work closely with such an outstanding group.”


Can patients with cancer take part?

- No, the initial trial has to be with healthy volunteers

When will the trials begin?

- The trials will begin in Spring 2003

Where will they take place?

- University of Leicester and Leicester Royal Infirmary

How will people know when the trial is about to start?

- Flyers will be distributed in the University of Leicester and Leicester Royal Infirmary

How will people be selected for the trials?

-   Selection made from completed information on flyers of healthy, mainly young volunteers, a 50/50 split males and females.


For further information please contact:

Jo Arden 0116 223 1854

University of Leicester Press Office: 0116 252 2415

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Last updated: November 2002
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