Ural Federal University: Fruits and Vegetables Form the Basis for New Anti-Cancer Drugs

Chemists from Ural Federal University, Institute of Organic Synthesis (Ural Branch of RAS), Shantou Medical University (China) and Sri Venkateswar University (India) have discovered how substances in fruits and vegetables prevent the development of tumors, stop the formation of malignant tumors and inhibit the division of cancer cells. For this purpose, scientists selected 30 compounds from fruits and vegetables and conducted a series of experiments. Using computer simulations, researchers determined which groups of compounds and how they affect proteins in cells. A description of the compounds and the results of the study are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“To create powerful new drugs that will target tumors, we need to determine how food compounds affect cellular proteins in cancer prevention and therapy. Therefore, by modeling molecular mechanisms, we figured out how substances bind to proteins. This allowed us to identify a pool of therapeutic targets that will be subsequently affected by the drugs. For example, these are anti-apoptotic (prevent apoptosis) and pro-apoptotic (induce apoptosis) proteins, protein kinases, and others. But the key target for drugs is phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase. It is this enzyme that influences cancer mutations, gene rearrangement and amplification,” explains Grigory Zyryanov, leading researcher at the laboratory of organic synthesis of the UrFU Center for Chemical and Pharmaceutical Technologies Innovation, Professor of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Scientists have also found that silybinin, flavopyridol, oleandrin, ursolic, oleanolic, alpha- and beta-boswellic acids, triterpenoid and guggulsterone have broad-spectrum anticancer properties. These compounds and enzymes are found in non-starchy plants such as broccoli, cabbage, spinach, cauliflower, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, leeks, rutabaga and turnips. Natural alkaloids, monoterpenes, organosulfides, carotenoids, flavonoids, phenolic acids, stilbenes and isoflavones also contribute to cancer prevention and therapy. Specific individual natural substances or their combinations are needed for specific cancer therapies. For example, resveratrol (found in abundance in grape skins) or pterostilbene (present in blueberries) inhibit stem cell metastasis in breast cancer. Indole-3-carbinol (cabbage is its main source) has a wide range of antitumor effects and protects cells in breast, colon, cervical, and endometriosis cancers.

“In India and China, it is commonly believed that many medicines can be obtained directly from natural sources. We assumed that the products selected for the study had anti-cancer properties, but this had to be tested. As a result, we found out that sick cells stop developing under the influence of certain combinations of food compounds,” states Grigory Zyryanov.

As a result, the researchers selected the ten most promising compounds for further study. The results obtained are the basis for the development of new drugs with greater efficacy and targeting of cancer cells without side effects for the body.

“This is not the first year that we and our Chinese and Indian colleagues have been searching for anti-cancer compounds. Joint projects between our universities are showing good results. Further research will be more extensive and will allow us to study the properties of other food compounds,” Grigory Zyryanov says.

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