Natural Compound Pounds Breast Cancer

Breast cancer shrinks when treated with apigenin

(RxWiki News) Imagine that instead of toxic chemotherapies, natural compounds in foods could be used to fight back against aggressive cancers. Celery and parsley may be vegetable gems of the future.

Apigenin, a naturally occurring compound seen in celery and parsley, was shown in animal studies to shrink aggressive breast cancer tumors that are fed by the hormone, progestin.

"Make vegetables a major part of your diet."

Progestin is a synthetic version of the female hormone progesterone. It's commonly used both in contraceptive pills and hormone replace therapy given to women to help with the unpleasantries of menopause.

“This is the first study to show that apigenin, which can be extracted from celery, parsley and many other natural sources, is effective against human breast cancer cells that had been influenced by a certain chemical used in hormone replacement therapy,” said co-author Salman Hyder, professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Missouri.

For this study, a fast-growing breast cancer was implanted into mice. Some of the mice were treated with medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), which is commonly given to postmenopausal women. Other mice did not receive any MPA.

The mice that received MPA were later treated with apigenin. 

In the MPA-exposed group, breast tumors grew rapidly. In the mice that received both MPA and apigenin, cancer cell growth slowed to that of the control group and tumors shrank. 

According to Hyder, the apigenin worked by stimulating cell death, blocking cell multiplication and reducing levels of a gene linked to cancer growth - all with no toxic side effects.

Of course, clinical trials in humans are needed to study these results. Funding such studies is going to be difficult, according to Hyder.

“One problem is, because apigenin doesn’t have a known specific target in the cancer cell, funding agencies have been reticent to support the research," Hyder said.

"Also, since apigenin is easily extracted from plants, pharmaceutical companies don’t stand to profit from the treatment; hence the industry won’t put money into studying something you can grow in your garden.”

This research was published online May 9, 2012 in the journal Hormones and Cancer.

Funding and financial disclosure information were not publicly available.

Review Date: 
May 16, 2012