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Bioactives backed for cancer risk reduction

06-Aug-2012
Last updated the 06-Aug-2012 at 16:36 GMT

Bioactive compounds found in certain foods and nutritional supplements could help to prevent cancer by blocking the ability of cancer stem cells to grow.

The study – published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry – examines the mechanisms by which bioactive food components may affect the risk of cancer development or recurrence by targeting cancer stem cells.

Led by Professor Young Kim of the National Cancer Institute, USA, the researchers suggest that bioactive components of foods – including certain vitamins and phytochemicals – could have the capacity to suppress cancer stem cells or prevent them from self-renewal. The authors add that the overall response to bioactive food components does not appear to be tissue or organ specific, “suggesting there may be common cellular mechanisms.”

Kim and his colleagues noted that such mechanisms may explain why certain functional foods have been found to help reduce the risk of cancer in epidemiologic studies.

“Diverse dietary constituents such as vitamins A and D, genistein, (−)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), sulforaphane, curcumin, piperine, theanine and choline have been shown to modify self-renewal properties of cancer stem cells,” say the researchers.

“The ability of these bioactive food components to influence the balance between proliferative and quiescent cells by regulating critical feedback molecules in the network … may account for their biological response,” they explain.

Cancer regulation

The researchers suggest that eating ‘inappropriate foods’ and their ingredients may result in the loss of regulatory molecules and promote the abnormal or uncontrolled self-renewal of cancer stem cells.

“Unquestionably, a diet-induced shift from deregulation to regulation in cancer stem cells could have profound influence on cancer relapses and therefore is of immense societal importance,” they conclude.

Study details 

Kim and his team note that while the origin of the cancer self-renewal process remains unclear, “evidence continues to surface that some bioactive food components can modulate various steps in the process and help prevent cancer regeneration/recurrence.”

They suggested that ‘adequate’ consumption of specific food items including vitamins A and D, genistein, EGCG, sulforaphane, theanine, curcumin, choline “and possibly many others may suppress the chaotic property of cancer stem cells to self-renew.”

“However, greater attention is needed to determine the minimum amounts required and specific circumstances that would derive the benefits from these agents,” they say.

Kim and his team argue that further studies are needed to clarify the physiological role of these dietary components in preventing the resistance of tumor cells to traditional drugs and cancer recurrence.

Source: The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Volume 23, Issue 7 , Pages 691–698, doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2012.03.002
“Cancer stem cells: potential target for bioactive food components”
Authors: Young S. Kim, William Farrar, Nancy H. Colburn, John A. Milner

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