Press Release: Flavonoids as a Potential Treatment for Cancer

By Sai Mannam

Glycation is the process whereby an enzyme catalyzes the bonding of a sugar molecule to another molecule, which can alter and inhibit cancer cell growth. Dr. Chan-Sik Kim from the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine concluded in 2017 that preventing the glycation process and removing glycation products from the human body slows down aging. Iranian researchers Fargol Boojar, Sepideh Golmohamad, and Golnaz Tafreshi published a comparative study on January 1st, 2019 in the Journal of Young Investigators (JYI) on the process of glycation and its implications in human cells, and the effects of the compounds kaempferol, myricetin and azaleatinin on the glycation process. Flavonoids are a class of plant pigments that are thought to have positive effects on diabetes and other disorders. Kaempferol, myricetin, and azaleatinin are all flavonoids. These experiments allowed researchers to assess the compounds’ ability to affect glycation end products within cancer cell lines, and ultimately obtain a better understanding of flavonoid structures and cancer prevention mechanisms.

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In Boojar’s experiments, cancer cells interacted with different concentrations of the flavonoid compounds of interest. After further processing of the cells, researchers concluded that the three compounds successfully inhibited cell growth at concentrations of 20 µM and higher. In addition, there were greater amounts of pentosidine – another compound responsible for inhibiting cell growth – in cells exposed to higher concentrations of the flavonoid compounds.

After analyzing the data collected, Boojar and his research team were able to determine that azaleatin is highly toxic and therefore is the best at inhibiting cancer cell growth, while myricetin is moderately toxic and kaempferol is only slightly toxic. The levels of toxicity varied depending on molecular structures of each flavonoid. Azaleatin was more complex in the number of substitutions the it had compared to the compound’s bare structure. Researchers hypothesized that this structural property is responsible for azaleatin’s greater potency.

Dr. Benavente-Garcia, part of the Research and Development Department of Furfural Español, states that it is important to know the mechanism of action of flavonoids so that the knowledge can be applied to slow cancer cell growth effectively and possibly prevent cancer. The implications of these findings are far-reaching. Flavonoids were able to inhibit cancerous cell growth and may be precursors of alternative treatment options to existing chemotherapies. Scientists will need to perform more research in order to understand the relationship between potency and specific structural elements of different flavonoid compounds.

Flavonoids have taken the limelight as potential tools in treating cancer. The exact mechanism of their actions is not completely known, but with further research, scientists will be able to better comprehend their mechanism in inhibiting cell growth. These insights will move cancer treatments forward and may also shed light on other areas of medicine.