Scientists have discovered a new and potent anti-cancer compound in everyday food. The collaborative study led by University College London shows that the compound – inositol pentakisphosphate – found in beans, nuts and cereals inhibits a key enzyme involved in tumour growth. The findings suggest that a diet enriched in such foods could help prevent cancer, while the inhibitor offers a new tool for anti-cancer therapy.
The tumour-promoting enzyme, phosphoinositide 3-kinase, has been the subject of study as a target for cancer treatment, but inhibitors have been difficult to develop because of problems with the chemical stability and toxicity of the inhibiting substances. Now, a team of scientists led by Dr Marco Falasca has discovered that a natural compound, inositol pentakisphosphate, inhibits the activity of the enzyme, suggesting it could be used to develop new treatments for cancer.
In the study, the compound was tested in mouse models and on cancer cells. Not only was it found to inhibit the growth of tumours in mice, but the phosphate also enhanced the effect of cytotoxic drugs in ovarian and lung cancer cells. The findings suggest that inositol pentakisphosphate could be used to sensitize cancer cells to the action of commonly used anti-cancer drugs.
Inositol pentakisphosphate is a non-toxic, water-soluble compound found in most legumes (such as lentils, peas and beans) and in wheat bran and nuts. These properties make the compound a promising therapeutic agent since conventional chemotherapy agents can be toxic to different degrees, whereas in the study, the inositol phosphate agent was found to be non-toxic even at higher concentrations.
University College London, Sept 15 2005