A red wine ingredient and aspirin may deliver a double knock-out blow to abnormal cells that can lead to cancer, research suggests.
Both help to destroy "tetraploid" cells that contain multiple copies of chromosomes, the packages of DNA and protein in which the genetic code is written.
Tetraploid cells cause genetic instability and have been linked to the development of cancer.
In tests, laboratory mice genetically engineered to have bowel cancer accumulated fewer of the rogue cells in their guts when fed the wine compound and painkiller.
Exposure to the two agents also reduced the survival of tetraploid cells in human bowel cancer tumour cultures.
The wine extract, resveratrol, is derived from red grapes and said to have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.
Aspirin, though primarily a painkiller, has been shown to protect against some cancers, especially those affecting the intestines and stomach.
The authors of the new research, led by Dr Guido Kroemer, from the Gustave Roussy Institute in Villejuif, France, wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: "Collectively, our results suggest that the chemopreventive action of resveratrol and aspirin involves the elimination of tetraploid cancer cell precursors."
The scientists believe one pathway to cancer involves a temporary phase of "tetraploidisation".
Chromosomes normally come in pairs, but in tetraploid cells each packaged DNA strand is copied four times over.
Tetraploid cells are often found in parts of the gut undergoing precancerous changes.