The Tomato Effect: Lycopene curbs cancer cell growth

Lycopene is a nutrient found in tomatoes and other fruits that has been researched for its preventative effects in both cardiovascular disease and cancer. A recent study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food demonstrated that lycopene supplements decreased the proliferation of prostate cancer cells.

Researchers treated human prostate cancer cells with a lycopene supplement to determine whether lycopene would induce cancer cell death or even simply suppress their growth. Treatment included three doses of lycopene followed by examination after 6, 24 and 48 hours. The scientists also looked for changes in cell growth due to the lycopene.

Researchers saw a 31% inhibition in cancerous cell growth in lycopene-treated cells when compared to the placebo-treated cells after 48 hours of treatment with a lower dose. The maximum effect, however, was seen with the higher dose, where cell death was seen at all time points and was heightened during the 24- and 48-hour treatments. There were no changes seen in the cell cycle of the placebo-treated groups, whereas the scientists observed a dramatic 16% reduction in cancerous cell presence in the lycopene-treated cells during a significant cell-growth cycle.

The results indicate that lycopene supplements decreased the number of cancer cells likely by increasing cell death (apoptosis) and slowing cancer cell growth cycles. These findings suggest that supplements containing lycopene may have cancer-fighting abilities.

Vitamin & Nutraceuticals Information Service, Jan 6, 2005