Common Olive Pomace Compound Demonstrates Anticancer Potential

Researchers developed nanoparticles of maslinic acid, which has been shown to help combat breast, colon, pancreatic and prostate cancers through various therapies.
Olive oil pomace being collected as a production waste in a modern oil mill
By Simon Roots
Oct. 23, 2023 19:06 UTC

Researchers at the University of Granada have devel­oped nanopar­ti­cles of maslinic acid, a nat­ural com­pound derived from olive oil pro­duc­tion waste.

These nanopar­ti­cles exhibit remark­able poten­tial in com­bat­ing var­i­ous can­cers, includ­ing breast, colon, pan­cre­atic and prostate. The team’s approach aims to enhance effec­tive­ness and broaden the maslinic acid appli­ca­tions in oncol­ogy.

This is a major leap for­ward in the search for new ther­a­peu­tic strate­gies that pro­duce fewer side effects and that are more selec­tive in the fight against these two types of can­cer (breast and pan­cre­atic).- Juan Antonio Marchal Corrales, researcher, University of Granada

Maslinic acid is a nat­u­rally occur­ring com­pound extracted from the byprod­ucts of olive oil pro­duc­tion. It boasts a range of sig­nif­i­cant health ben­e­fits, mak­ing it a valu­able can­di­date for med­ical research.

Among its notable attrib­utes, maslinic acid demon­strates potent antiox­i­dant prop­er­ties, shield­ing the body from oxida­tive stress and mit­i­gat­ing the risk of dis­eases asso­ci­ated with oxida­tive dam­age, such as car­dio­vas­cu­lar con­di­tions, can­cer, and pre­ma­ture aging.

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In addi­tion, maslinic acid exhibits anti-inflam­ma­tory effects and is an effec­tive antimi­cro­bial agent against var­i­ous bac­te­ria and fungi.

This antimi­cro­bial activ­ity aids in com­bat­ing infec­tions and inhibit­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of harm­ful microor­gan­isms within the body. However, maslinic acid’s most dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture lies in its poten­tial to fight can­cer.

Laboratory tests on cells revealed maslinic acid’s promis­ing role as a can­cer cell growth inhibitor, pro­mot­ing pro­grammed cell death (apop­to­sis) in mul­ti­ple can­cer types, includ­ing breast, colon and prostate can­cer.

Maslinic acid

Maslinic acid, derived from dry olive pomace, a byprod­uct of olive oil pro­duc­tion, belongs to the triter­pene group known as oleananes. This bioac­tive com­pound shows promise in var­i­ous aspects of health. It inhibits ser­ine pro­teases cru­cial for HIV spread, dis­plays anti-can­cer prop­er­ties against colon cells, and enhances glu­ta­mate reup­take, poten­tially reduc­ing nerve cell dam­age. With its antiox­ida­tive effects against harm­ful reac­tive species and the abil­ity to curb inflam­ma­tion, maslinic acid may sup­port pro­tein syn­the­sis, growth, and joint health. It also serves as a glyco­gen phos­pho­ry­lase inhibitor, increas­ing glyco­gen stor­age in the liver.

It also impedes angio­gen­e­sis, the process by which new blood ves­sels nour­ish tumors. Due to its ver­sa­til­ity and ther­a­peu­tic poten­tial, maslinic acid has gar­nered sub­stan­tial inter­est in the med­ical and health­care sec­tors. Nevertheless, its prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion has been lim­ited due to its low water sol­u­bil­ity, mea­sur­ing at a mere 3.6 micro­grams per liter.

The break­through the University of Granada researchers achieved involves engi­neer­ing nanopar­ti­cles that sig­nif­i­cantly enhance maslinic acid’s sol­u­bil­ity in aque­ous solu­tions, sur­pass­ing one mil­lion times its orig­i­nal sol­u­bil­ity.

This crit­i­cal advance­ment enables the com­pound’s uti­liza­tion across var­i­ous fields. Moreover, these nanopar­ti­cles are designed to trans­port other water-insol­u­ble drugs within them, result­ing in a dual anti­tu­mor effect – a com­bi­na­tion of the maslinic acid’s inher­ent prop­er­ties and the potency of the encap­su­lated drug. This inno­va­tion holds great promise for enhanc­ing the effi­cacy of can­cer treat­ments.

The result­ing nanopar­ti­cles have a size rang­ing between 120 and 160 nanome­ters, exhibit uni­form dis­per­sion and remark­able sta­bil­ity and retain their prop­er­ties for up to six months when stored.

Cell-based assays demon­strated the cyto­toxic activ­ity of these nanopar­ti­cles against breast and pan­cre­atic can­cer cell lines, with lower tox­i­c­ity observed in healthy cells (fibrob­lasts).

Additionally, the rapid inter­nal­iza­tion of these nanopar­ti­cles by can­cer cells was observed, demon­strat­ing their capac­ity to trans­port widely used chemother­apy drugs for pan­cre­atic and breast can­cer – pacli­taxel and doc­etaxel, respec­tively.

Experiments on mice ver­i­fied the nanopar­ti­cles’ non-toxic nature and suit­abil­ity for intra­venous and oral admin­is­tra­tion.

Notably, oral admin­is­tra­tion is pre­ferred by patients due to its high accept­abil­ity. These nanopar­ti­cles are for­mu­lated with a poly­meric shell that per­mits the attach­ment of tar­get­ing mol­e­cules, facil­i­tat­ing a more selec­tive anti­tu­mor treat­ment, specif­i­cally tar­get­ing tumor cells while spar­ing healthy ones.

We have seen that these nanopar­ti­cles, whether admin­is­tered intra­venously or orally, are all able to reach the dif­fer­ent organs in the body,” said Juan Antonio Marchal Corrales, a researcher at the University of Granada and co-author of the study. And, with proper tar­get­ing, we could tar­get them directly to tumor cells, but not healthy cells.”

This is a major leap for­ward in the search for new ther­a­peu­tic strate­gies that pro­duce fewer side effects and that are more selec­tive in the fight against these two types of can­cer, mainly triple-neg­a­tive breast can­cer and pan­cre­atic can­cer, which are can­cers with a high mor­tal­ity rate,” he added.

This sys­tem extends the poten­tial appli­ca­tions of maslinic acid across var­i­ous domains. These nanopar­ti­cles can be com­bined with dif­fer­ent drugs and tai­lored to suit spe­cific treat­ment require­ments in can­cer treat­ment. This ver­sa­til­ity posi­tions the nanosys­tem as a potent tool in the ongo­ing bat­tle against can­cer.


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