A Safer, Natural Approach to Treating Gliomas? The Case for Resveratrol

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Imagine a natural compound, found abundantly in grapes and red wine, that could slow the growth of one of the deadliest and most treatment-resistant cancers known to medicine - glioblastoma. According to a new meta-analysis, this tantalizing prospect may be closer to reality than previously thought. The compound, resveratrol, significantly curbed tumor growth in animal models of glioma, offering hope for a safer, more natural adjunct treatment for this devastating disease.

A meta-analysis of 10 animal studies found that resveratrol, a natural compound, significantly reduced the growth of glioma brain tumors. The effect was seen across different types of glioma cells, animal models, and modes of administration. Resveratrol also enhanced the anti-tumor action of temozolomide, a standard glioblastoma chemotherapy drug. As a safe and well-tolerated molecule with many potential health benefits, resveratrol warrants further investigation as a complementary treatment for gliomas in humans.

Gliomas, particularly glioblastoma, are among the most aggressive and difficult-to-treat cancers.1 Despite advances in surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, the median survival for glioblastoma remains a dismal 14-16 months.1 The search for new therapeutic agents is therefore of paramount importance. Now, a new meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences suggests that a natural compound found in many foods may hold significant promise.2

The compound, resveratrol, is a type of polyphenol found in the skin of grapes, blueberries, peanuts, and other plants. It is known for its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.3 Previous studies have also indicated that resveratrol can interfere with multiple pathways involved in cancer growth and spread.4 However, studies on resveratrol's effects against gliomas have been limited to cell cultures and animal models, with varying experimental designs that made the overall efficacy difficult to ascertain.

To gain a clearer picture, researchers from the University of Beira Interior in Portugal conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of animal studies that tested resveratrol's impact on glioma tumor growth.2 They identified 10 studies involving 108 animals that met their inclusion criteria. The studies utilized several different glioma cell lines, both from humans and rats, that were implanted either under the skin or directly into the brains of mice or rats. The animals then received resveratrol treatment, either orally, intravenously, or injected into the abdomen, at doses ranging from 0.013 to 150 mg/kg per day for periods of 10 to 30 days.  

When the researchers pooled the data, they found that resveratrol significantly reduced glioma tumor growth, with an overall large effect size (standardized mean difference of -2.06). This indicates that, on average, the tumors in resveratrol-treated animals were more than two standard deviations smaller than the tumors in control animals - a substantial reduction. The benefit was seen regardless of the specific animal model, glioma cell type, or mode of administration, although it was more pronounced with higher doses and longer treatment durations.

Importantly, resveratrol also enhanced the effectiveness of temozolomide, a standard chemotherapy drug for glioblastomas. Animals that received resveratrol plus temozolomide had significantly slower tumor growth than those receiving temozolomide alone. This suggests that resveratrol could potentially be used as an adjunct to make current glioblastoma therapies more effective.

The findings of this meta-analysis are particularly exciting because resveratrol is known to be a very safe and well-tolerated compound. Unlike many cancer drugs, it has very low toxicity and a wide therapeutic window.5 In fact, resveratrol is widely available as a dietary supplement and has been investigated for many other health benefits, including cardiovascular protection, diabetes prevention, and life extension.6 If its anti-glioma effects translate to humans, it could provide a relatively risk-free way to improve outcomes for one of the deadliest cancers.

Of course, animal studies, while valuable, are only a starting point. It remains to be seen whether resveratrol will be as effective against human gliomas and whether achievable doses will reach the tumor in sufficient concentrations. The blood-brain barrier, which tightly controls what enters the brain from the bloodstream, could be a formidable obstacle. Novel delivery methods, such as nanoparticles7 or direct injection into the tumor,8 may be necessary.

Nevertheless, the consistency and magnitude of resveratrol's benefit across multiple animal glioma models provides a strong impetus for further research. The next steps should include well-designed clinical trials in glioma patients to establish safety and preliminary efficacy. Because of its excellent safety profile, resveratrol could potentially be investigated as an adjunct to standard care relatively quickly.

In the meantime, the findings offer a glimmer of hope to the thousands of patients diagnosed with gliomas each year, as well as their families. They serve as a reminder of the healing power that exists in nature, waiting to be discovered and harnessed. While resveratrol may not be a magic bullet, it could be a valuable addition to the anti-cancer arsenal. At the very least, it represents a promising lead in the ongoing quest for better, safer ways to treat one of humanity's most fearsome foes.

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1. Tan AC, Ashley DM, López GY, Malinzak M, Friedman HS, Khasraw M. Management of glioblastoma: State of the art and future directions. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2020;70(4):299-312. doi:10.3322/caac.21613

2. Luís Â, Marcelino H, Domingues F, Pereira L, Cascalheira JF. Therapeutic Potential of Resveratrol for Glioma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Animal Model Studies. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2023;24(16):16597. doi:10.3390/ijms242316597

3. Meng T, Xiao D, Muhammed A, et al. Anti-Inflammatory Action and Mechanisms of Resveratrol. Molecules. 2021;26(1):229. doi:10.3390/molecules26010229  

4. McCubrey JA, Lertpiriyapong K, Steelman LS, et al. Effects of resveratrol, curcumin, berberine and other nutraceuticals on aging, cancer development, cancer stem cells and microRNAs. Aging. 2017;9(6):1477-1536. doi:10.18632/aging.101250

5. Berman AY, Motechin RA, Wiesenfeld MY, Holz MK. The therapeutic potential of resveratrol: a review of clinical trials. NPJ Precision Oncology. 2017;1:35. doi:10.1038/s41698-017-0038-6

6. Koushki M, Amiri-Dashatan N, Ahmadi N, Abbaszadeh HA, Rezaei-Tavirani M. Resveratrol: A miraculous natural compound for diseases treatment. Food Science & Nutrition. 2018;6(8):2473-2490. doi:10.1002/fsn3.855

7. Jhaveri A, Deshpande P, Pattni B, Torchilin V. Transferrin-targeted, resveratrol-loaded liposomes for the treatment of glioblastoma. Journal of Controlled Release. 2018;277:89-101. doi:10.1016/j.jconrel.2018.03.006

8. Yang HC, Wang JY, Bu XY, et al. Resveratrol restores sensitivity of glioma cells to temozolomide through inhibiting the activation of Wnt signaling pathway. Journal of Cellular Physiology. 2019;234(5):6783-6800. doi:10.1002/jcp.27406

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