Anti-carcinogenic compounds in foods

HCA beta-cateninIn epidemiological studies, high intakes of vegetables, fruits and berries have been associated with a lower risk for cancer at several sites. Plant foods contain substantial amounts of bioactive compounds, some of which are currently the subject of intensive research for their use in cancer prevention and treatment. However, majority of the anti-carcinogenic compounds in plant foods are probably still unidentified, not to mention the molecular mechanisms mediating their anti-carcinogenic effects.  

We aim to identify anti-carcinogenic constituents and compounds in foods and to elucidate their mechanisms of action in tissues and cells by using modern molecular biology techniques. For example, we have shown that wild berries, e.g. cloudberry, lingonberry and bilberry, possess anti-tumorigenic effects in the Min mouse, a preclinical model for colon cancer, as well as in human colon carcinoma cell lines.

HT29 beta-cateninMutations in the APC tumour suppressor gene are found in the majority of colon tumours, leading to dysregulation of cell proliferation, adhesion and migration. In addition to APC, several growth factors contribute to these cellular processes which maintain the structure and integrity of normal intestinal epithelium, and are dysregulated in different stages of colon carcinogenesis from initiation to metastasis. Based on this, we have established a wound healing assay using human colon carcinoma cells to investigate the effects of diet-derived constituents on cell migration and the underlying cell signalling pathways. The focus is on the signalling pathways regulating cell adhesion, migration and growth, e.g. Met, EGFR, PI3K, APC, beta-catenin, p120-catenin and E-cadherin. As an example, we have used the cell culture model to study the anti-carcinogenic effects of cloudberry extract and found that cloudberry constituents inhibit cancer cell motility which is accompanied by inhibition of Met receptor activation and its downstream signalling to the PI3K and MAPK pathways. Ongoing studies concentrate on identifying the compounds responsible for these anti-carcinogenic effects.

Principal Investigator: Anne-Maria Pajari, PhD, University Lecturer