Breast cancer cells that are resistant to rapamycin alone may have a better response when the agent is combined with resveratrol, a polyphenol found in the skin of red grapes and a constituent of red wine.

“Rapamycin has been used in clinical trials as a cancer treatment,” explained Charis Eng, MD, PhD, chair of the Genomic Medicine Institute of Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute and leader of the resveratrol study. “Unfortunately, after a while, the cancer cells develop resistance to rapamycin. Our findings show that resveratrol seems to mitigate rapamycin-induced drug resistance in breast cancers, at least in the laboratory.”

As Dr. Eng and her team noted in their study, published in Cancer Letters (2011;301:168-176), they found that combining resveratrol with rapamycin resulted in modest additive inhibitory effects on the growth of breast cancer cells.

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If these observations hold true in the clinical setting, commented Dr. Eng in a statement announcing the study results, “Then enjoying a glass of red wine or eating a bowl of boiled peanuts—which has a higher resveratrol content than red wine—before rapamycin treatment for cancer might be a prudent approach.”