Grape seed extract kills head and neck cancer cells, leaves healthy cells unharmed

Grape seed extract kills head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed (image courtesy of Flickr user Anders Ljungberg)

Nearly 12,000 people will die of head and neck cancer in the United States this year and worldwide cases will exceed half a million.

A study published this week in the journal Carcinogenesis shows that in both cell lines and mouse models, grape seed extract (GSE) kills head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cells, while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

“It’s a rather dramatic effect,” says Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

It depends in large part, says Agarwal, on a healthy cell’s ability to wait out damage.

“Cancer cells are fast-growing cells,” Agarwal says. “Not only that, but they are necessarily fast growing. When conditions exist in which they can’t grow, they die.”

Grape seed extract creates these conditions that are unfavorable to growth. Specifically, the paper shows that grape seed extract both damages cancer cells’ DNA (via increased reactive oxygen species) and stops the pathways that allow repair (as seen by decreased levels of the DNA repair molecules Brca1 and Rad51 and DNA repair foci).

“Yet we saw absolutely no toxicity to the mice, themselves,” Agarwal says.

Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Again, the grape seed extract killed the cancer cells but not the healthy cells.

“I think the whole point is that cancer cells have a lot of defective pathways and they are very vulnerable if you target those pathways. The same is not true of healthy cells,” Agarwal says.

The Agarwal Lab hopes to move in the direction of clinical trials of grape seed extract, potentially as an addition to second-line therapies that target head and neck squamous cell carcinoma that has failed a first treatment.

This work was supported by the R01 grants AT003623 from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and CA91883 from the National Cancer Institute, NIH.

About the author: Garth Sundem

In addition to writing for the University of Colorado Cancer Center, Garth is the author of the books The Geeks’ Guide to World Domination, Brain Candy, and Geek Logik. Contact him at garth.sundem [at]


  1. soad shaker ali says:

    interesting also we tried grape juice ( red type) for preventing the effect of hypercholestermia on cardiac and blood vessels tissues – wonderful results based on biochemical and histological studies

  2. soad shaker ali says:

    interesting research

  3. Mindy says:

    Is there a certain miiligram (or other designation on the) dosage?

  4. Padma says:

    Oral or topical?

    • Garth Sundem says:

      Hi Padma and Mindy,
      Dr. Agarwal’s research with grape seed extract was, at this point, performed on mice and not yet with human subjects. That said, the GSE was given orally to mice. Dr. Agarwal is excited to move this technology into human clinical trials and I’ll certainly post again when he does!

      Thanks for your comments,

  5. Dr.G S Lavekar says:

    Important and Interesting research as very common fruit extract is found useful

  6. RAMESH says:

    That is great news. We have so many ordinary safe drugs to treat, the research was failed to recognise it till now. Kudos to Dr. Rajesh, hope you make it to clinics.

  7. witness2 says:

    Anything natural breakthrus for skin diseases such as hyperkeratosis, dermatitis, psoriasis or eczema?

  8. Steve says:

    As for dosage, 1200mg daily of muscadine GSE was/ is being used in cardiovascular and cancer studies at a major medical center here in NC. Not sure of dosage in Dr. Agarwal’s work. Hope this helps.

    “Good Health Is NOT Expensive, It’s Priceless!”

  9. Thank you for sharing this information. Wake Forest University in North Carolina has found 7 forms of cancer (breast, colon, prostate, skin, brain, lung and leukemia) to be inhibited with the Muscadine Grape seed / skins extract. Triple negative breast cancer was inhibited at 92.6%! Further studies are now underway. Their research utilized an organic, high quality line of products called Nature’s Pearl.

    The independently tested line of products also has a completely toxic free line of skin care that truly is a natural face lift! I do represent the company and have detailed some of the information on my blog ( I did post a link to this article today. I would be happy to share the Wake Forest cancer / cardiovascular research with anyone upon request.

    In health,
    Karen Gadol, PA-C, CNHP

  10. Garth:
    There has already been Human Cancer Cells, in vitro, studies done at Wake Forest University In North Carolina, using the Muscadine Grape Skins and Seeds.
    Incredible results, that have been presented at the annual meeting of AACR April 2011. The results are posted on the above website. Thanks Richard

    • Garth Sundem says:

      Thanks, Karen and Richard! It’s great to see what’s being done elsewhere. I forwarded your comments to Dr. Agarwal (who, of course, said he’d seen them and reiterated their promise). This is an exciting area of cancer care and we’ll definitely keep a close eye on it here and elsewhere. Any additional tips are welcome! Cheers.

  11. Lynnsy Logue says:

    Thank you for this report. I was diagnosed with Tongue Cancer in 2009 at the age of 70. Survived chemo, radiation and surgery. The whole time I took grapeseed extract and continue daily. So far, so good. I journaled throughout the entire treatment period and the journal/memoir is on Amazon and Barnes and Noble: Tongue Cancer and My Organic Cotton Socks. I speak to the ways I know which are more alternative to help myself along with the rigorous treatment, carrot juice, power walking, swimming, meditation and journaling. I hope the book will help others. Thanks again for this report.

  12. ramesh says:

    thank u for this information. shall u send any detail information about the treatment. my father is affect by lung with fourth stage and am not interested to give any treatment like chemotherapy or anything else. kindly help me to protect my father’s life. i hope this treatment is surely helpful to my father’s treatment so send more information about the news. Thanks for the information