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A second compound in grapes has been found to have properties that give it promise as a cancer-preventing agent, according to an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) study.

ARS research chemist Agnes Rimando’s finding, made at the agency’s Oxford, Miss.-based Natural Products Utilization Research Unit, is part of a study posted on the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry’s web site.

In a study using mice, Rimando reported that a compound called pterostilbene possesses similar cancer chemopreventive qualities to those found in resveratrol, another compound in grapes.  Pterostilbene also showed strong inhibitory activity against breast cancer cell lines. But the evidence remains preliminary and the compound has yet to be valuated in humans, according to Rimando.

In previous research, resveratrol has been credited with helping grape plants fight off fungi and has been linked to low incidences of coronary heart disease among wine-drinking populations.

Unlike resveratrol, however, pterostilbene is already known to possess anti-diabetic properties. It was first isolated from red sandalwood. Together with resveratrol, it has also been identified in wine grape leaves, in Chardonnay and Gamay berries infected with fungus, and in healthy Pinot Noir and Gamay berries.

The study, prompted by pterostilbene’s close structural similarity to
resveratrol, was conducted with the use of a mouse mammary gland culture model that was exposed to a chemical carcinogen. The carcinogen caused precancerous cells on which the compound was tested.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the study was also funded by the University of Illinois at Chicago and the National Cancer Institute.