Kava’s reputation in preventing cancer just received a boost from the American Association for Cancer Research. The May cover of the organization’s flagship journal, Cancer Prevention Research, featured a clinical study on kava led by Chengguo “Chris” Xing, Ph.D., a professor of medicinal chemistry and the Frank A. Duckworth Eminent Scholar Chair in the UF College of Pharmacy and a member of the UF Health Cancer Center.
In the pilot clinical trial, Xing and his colleagues evaluated the effects of a seven-day course of kava capsules on tobacco carcinogen metabolism and tobacco usage in active smokers. The results from the study suggest that kava’s twofold cancer prevention mechanism reduces the toxicity of a certain carcinogenic metabolite and relaxes the user, which reduces tobacco cravings.
Smoking cessation and detoxification of tobacco-associated carcinogens are potentially necessary to effectively reduce cancer risk associated with tobacco exposure. “It is really exciting and rewarding to see the results from the clinical settings consistent with the lab work, which is about kava’s potential to enhance carcinogen detoxification,” Xing said. “The tobacco cessation potential of kava was indeed a surprise, although it seems logical now given kava’s relaxing property. At the same time, we need to validate the results in more rigorous clinical trials and explore the potential of precision intervention, which is one of our current research focuses.”
Xing first began studying kava in 2005, after epidemiology studies showed an association between consumption of kava and low rates of lung cancer in the South Pacific Islands.