Health

Researchers Isolate Component of EVOO That Attacks Breast Cancer Stem Cells

A molecule in extra virgin olive oil targets the metabolism and the epigenesis of breast cancer stem cells, effectively preventing them from generating more tumors.

Jun. 19, 2018
By Danielle Pacheco

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Researchers in Girona have found a mol­e­cule in EVOO that can specif­i­cally inhibit breast can­cer stem cells in cell and tumor cul­tures.

The dis­cov­ery opens up promis­ing new pos­si­bil­i­ties for directly tar­get­ing can­cer stem cells (CSC), an aggres­sive type of can­cer cell often respon­si­ble for relapse in can­cer patients.

The study was led by Javier Menen­dez, head of the Metab­o­lism and Can­cer group, a joint ini­tia­tive by the Cata­lan Insti­tute of Oncology’s (ICO) Pro­CURE pro­gram and the Girona Bio­med­ical Research Insti­tute (IDIBGI).

Five years ago, Menen­dez and his team started the long task of search­ing for new mol­e­cules with anti-CSC prop­er­ties. Their method was inspired by the tech­niques used by phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies when devel­op­ing new onco­log­i­cal drugs, first iso­lat­ing and puri­fy­ing the mol­e­cules before test­ing the effects in tumor stem cell cul­tures.

Inves­ti­ga­tors screened mol­e­cules to check whether they were capa­ble of affect­ing the func­tion­al­ity of can­cer stem cells, includ­ing their resis­tance to onco­log­i­cal drugs and their abil­ity to gen­er­ate new micro­tu­mors. They found these char­ac­ter­is­tics in decar­boxymethyl oleu­ropein agly­cone (DOA), a phe­nol-con­ju­gated oleo­side that is present in minute quan­ti­ties in cold-pressed EVOO.

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Our hypoth­e­sis is that this com­po­nent of olive oil, which rep­re­sents no more than 2 per­cent of its weight but which is made up of more than 200 dif­fer­ent com­po­nents, can be used as a nat­ural gold­mine of infor­ma­tion about new chem­i­cal struc­tures capa­ble of inhibit­ing mol­e­c­u­lar func­tions that are nec­es­sary for CSC,” said Menen­dez.

Menen­dez and his team found that the DOA oleo­side simul­ta­ne­ously attacked pro­teins respon­si­ble for metab­o­lism (mTOR) and epi­ge­n­e­sis (DNMT). This dual metabolo-epi­ge­netic mech­a­nism effec­tively sup­presses the func­tional prop­er­ties of tumor stem cells, inhibit­ing their abil­ity to reini­ti­ate tumor for­ma­tion.

After the ini­tial test­ing phase, researchers suc­cess­fully tested the mol­e­cule in lab ani­mals. Menen­dez con­firmed that expo­sure of the can­cer stem cells to spe­cific oleo­sides dur­ing just a few hours was enough to com­pletely inhibit their capac­ity for ini­ti­at­ing the for­ma­tion of tumors in lab­o­ra­tory ani­mals.” The ground­break­ing study was pub­lished in the respected med­ical jour­nal Car­cino­gen­e­sis, part of the Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press Group.

The third phase of the project was car­ried out in part­ner­ship with Mind the Byte, a bioin­for­mat­ics com­pany that spe­cial­izes in drug devel­op­ment using novel meth­ods such as arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence. With their help, researchers were able to map out the mech­a­nism of action of the anti-CSC mol­e­cules. The researchers have already reg­is­tered an inter­na­tional patent and are work­ing on cre­at­ing new mol­e­cules that mimic the anti-CSC effects of the oleo­sides.

For their efforts, Menen­dez and his col­leagues received the Luis Vañó Award for Research Related to the Olive Oil Indus­try, pre­sented on April 16 in Jaén by the Uni­ver­sity of Jaén in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Davis.







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