Lung cancer is the leading killer among cancers of both men and women in the United States. And less than 17 percent of those who develop the disease survive for five years or more. Now a group of Canadian researchers are looking to wine for ways to improve those odds.

The researchers, from Brock University and McMaster University in Ontario, noted in their study, slated for print in Cancer Cell International, that in-vitro studies using cancer cells, and even some epidemiological studies, indicate that red wine possesses anti-cancer properties. Often this ability is credited to red wine being a rich source of the polyphenol resveratrol, so most studies employ synthetic forms of resveratrol. "Investigation into the effect of whole wine are limited," the authors wrote.

For this research, the team decided to measure red and white wines' impact on non small-cell carcinoma lung cancer cells. They exposed samples of lung cancer cells to Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Riesling. All wines were sourced from producers in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

They found that both red and white wines halted the spread of lung cancer, but the reds were more effective. Red wine effectively stopped the spread of cancer cells, when compared to the control group, at 2 percent concentration. For white wine, similar results didn't happen until 5 percent.

"Our results demonstrated that while both red and white wines are able to inhibit lung cancer cell growth and oncogenic potential, there is a difference in the potency of the wines as these effects were only achieved with higher doses of white wine," said Evangelia Litsa Tsiani, an associate professor of Community Health Sciences at Brock University and one of the authors. "We hypothesize that the total phenolic content, which was much higher in red wine, may be responsible."

Tsiani said the study showed that red wine does stop the growth and survival of lung cancer cells. But she cautioned that the team cannot make recommendations regarding wine consumption because these were tests on human lung cancer cells in a lab setting. "Our next step is to use doses of wine that correspond to moderate wine consumption in humans, one to two glasses per day, and examine the effect on tumor growth in mice," she said. "If we see a significant reduction in tumor growth with wine then we will have strong evidence that will justify the need of a clinical trial, a study in cancer patients."