Eating Fruits and Vegetables Can Help Cancer
Patients Respond Better to Chemotherapy
Naturally occurring apigenin facilitates the death of cancer cells
in UC Riverside study
22, 2008 – The leading cause of death in all cancer patients continues
to be the resistance of tumor cells to chemotherapy, a treatment in
which chemicals are used to kill cells. A new study has found that
ingesting apigenin – a naturally occurring dietary agent found in
vegetables and fruit – improves cancer cells' response to chemotherapy.
Apigenin is mainly found in fruit (including
apples, cherries, grapes), vegetables (including parsley, artichoke,
basil, celery), nuts and plant-derived beverages (including tea and
It has been shown by researchers to have growth
inhibitory properties in several cancer lines, including breast, colon,
skin, thyroid and leukemia cells. It has also been shown to inhibit
pancreatic cancer cell proliferation.
The new study is published in the online early
edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It
provides a novel approach to conquer tumor resistance to chemotherapy,
and suggests an avenue for developing safe chemotherapy with naturally
Xuan Liu, a professor of biochemistry, and Xin Cai, a postdoctoral
researcher working in her lab at UC Riverside, found that apigenin
localizes tumor suppressor p53, a protein, in the cell nucleus – a
necessary step for killing the cell that results in some tumor cells
responding to chemotherapy.
Normally, cells have low levels of p53 diffused in
their cytoplasm and nucleus. When DNA in the nucleus is damaged, p53
moves to the nucleus where it activates genes that stop cell growth and
cause cell death. In this way, p53 ensures that cells with damaged DNA
In many cancers, p53 is rendered inactive by a
process called cytoplasmic sequestration. Apigenin is able to activate
p53 and transport it into the nucleus, resulting in a stop to cell
growth and cell death.
"In therapy you want to kill cancer cells,"
explained Cai, the first author of the research paper. "But to stop cell
growth and to kill the cell, p53 first needs to be moved to the cell's
nucleus to function. Apigenin is very effective in localizing p53 this
"Our study advocates the inclusion of vegetables
and fruit in our daily diet to help prevent cancer," said Liu, the
research paper's coauthor.
The National Institutes of Health supported the
Next in their research Liu and Cai plan to design
therapies for cancer by finding compounds that are like, but perform
even better than, apigenin.
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