Rice and Berries

British scientists are studying four different pills made from isolated chemical compounds in Thai sticky rice, bilberries, red wine and spices that may help prevent cancer.

Professor Will Steward, a cancer and molecular medicine expert, said the compounds appear to reduce the risk of cancer in some people and that their study was the latest step in the fight to find drugs that stop cells becoming malignant.

The compounds are tricin, found in Thai sticky rice, resveratrol from red wine, curcumin found in turmeric, and anthocyanins groups of antioxidants derived from bilberries. They may prevent tumours in breast, colon and prostate.

Steward’s work at the University of Leicester is based on evidence that villagers in Thailand, who eat a lot of sticky rice, are less likely to develop breast cancer.

‘We know they are safe to use but we want to establish if they are effective in humans,’ Steward said.

‘We want to be more scientific about developing a tablet that can have an effect by focusing on the chemical compound that already appears to reduce the risk in some people.’

The pills should be available in the market by 2010.