Hidefumi Makabe, Professor of the Faculty of Agriculture at Shinshu University, along with Professor Hiroshi Fujii and Assistant Professor Koji Umezawa of the Institute for Biomedical Sciences (IBS) have discovered that epicatechin oligomers contained in grapes and azuki beans are effective in inhibiting the proliferation and invasion of cancer. Professor Fujii first found that grape extracts included a substance that reduced cancer proliferation and metastasis. Thereafter, Professor Fujii and Professor Makabe identified this substance to be a type of proanthocyanidin. Assistant Professor Umezawa investigated the structural analyses of epicatechin or catechin oligomers to better understand structure-activity relationship of these compounds.

Chemically synthesized complicated-structure epicatechin oligomers made from pentamer or larger cyclic molecules were observed to suppress the expression of the cancer promoting gene, fatty acid-binding protein 5 (FABP5), and markedly inhibit invasive activity of cancer cells. The group expects their research to lead to the development of cancer-preventing foods containing epicatechin oligomers.

This study has been published in the Nature Publishing Group journal “Scientific Reports”.