Health

Oleocanthal, a Polyphenol in Olive Oil, Positively Impacts Human Melanoma Cells

According to new research, oleocanthal may be a potent anticancer agent for aggressive melanoma skin cancers.

Sep. 12, 2016
By Jedha Dening

Recent News

One of the most aggres­sive, chemore­sis­tant forms of cancer is malig­nant cuta­neous melanoma. There are some treat­ment options avail­able includ­ing injec­tion of inflam­ma­tory mol­e­cules, along with oral and top­i­cal agents, which is where extra virgin olive oil polyphe­nols may play a key role.

Oleocanthal, one of the most rec­og­nized polyphe­no­lic com­pounds in extra virgin olive oil, was dis­cov­ered by Gary Beauchamp during an exper­i­ment to improve the taste of ibupro­fen.
See more: Olive Oil and Cancer Treatment and Prevention
While research­ing mol­e­c­u­lar gas­tron­omy with a team of sci­en­tists, food spe­cial­ists and chefs, Beauchamp was con­duct­ing an olive oil tast­ing when he noticed some sim­i­lar­i­ties between the taste of a par­tic­u­lar olive oil and the ibupro­fen.

Researchers have estab­lished its abil­ity to pro­vide potent anti-inflam­ma­tory prop­er­ties, which inhibit cyclooxy­ge­nase enzymes in the same way as NSAID ibupro­fen. Other stud­ies have demon­strated extra virgin olive oil to be help­ful in brain cancer chemo­pre­ven­tion, in reduc­ing inva­sive breast cancer, in reduc­ing breast cancer relapse, and in play­ing some role in the treat­ment of blad­der cancer.

A new study, pub­lished in Nutrition and Cancer, aimed to inves­ti­gate if oleo­can­thal could pro­vide anti-pro­lific activ­ity against melanoma cells.

A pure, direct extrac­tion and purifi­ca­tion of oleo­can­thal was obtained for the study. Human melanoma cells with high tumori­genic and metasta­tic activ­ity were com­pared to dermal fibrob­lasts (normal human skin cells), each under­go­ing expo­sure to oleo­can­thal and tested for cell activ­ity.

Advertisement

For the first time, the study revealed that oleo­can­thal inhibits cell growth in melanoma cells in a con­cen­tra­tion-depen­dent manner, mean­ing the more the cells are exposed to oleo­can­thal, the less they pro­lif­er­ate and become cancer caus­ing. The same out­come did not occur with dermal fibrob­lasts, sug­gest­ing the selec­tive activ­ity only occurs in can­cer­ous cells.

The mech­a­nisms for oleocanthal’s effects upon apop­to­sis (cell death) were stud­ied and the results showed that the polyphe­nol specif­i­cally down­reg­u­lates the gene expres­sion of “anti­apop­totic Bcl‑2 pro­teins.” This in itself may pro­vide clin­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance, as the abil­ity to down­reg­u­late these genes can “sen­si­tize cells to both con­ven­tional and tar­geted ther­a­pies.”

As for oleocanthal’s mech­a­nisms on tumor devel­op­ment, researchers found that oleo­can­thal shows “a remark­able reduc­tion in ERK phos­pho­ry­la­tion and such an effect was par­al­leled by inhi­bi­tion of AKT phos­pho­ry­la­tion.” These pro­teins pro­vide sig­nal­ing path­ways that form a direct com­mu­ni­ca­tion chain that can act as an on/ off switch, which in this case appears to help switch off cancer sig­nals.

Advertisement

More research will be required to sup­port the find­ings but the authors sug­gest that given the down­stream path­ways, “it is con­ceiv­able that inhi­bi­tion of ERK and AKT path­ways may lead to sup­pres­sion of cell growth.”

The authors also sug­gested that the activ­ity of oleo­can­thal in this instance is inde­pen­dent of its activ­ity against cyclooxy­ge­nase enzymes. Further stud­ies should now be con­ducted to con­firm if extra virgin olive oil polyphe­nols could, in fact, be a phar­ma­co­log­i­cal agent that could be used for melanoma treat­ment.

Advertisement