Natural Compound Reduces Risk of Breast Cancer in Postmenopausal Women

Luteolin may carry significant anti-tumor effects.

Luteolin may carry significant anti-tumor effects.

Postmenopausal women who have taken a combined estrogen and progestin hormone replacement therapy are at increased risk for breast cancer. However, a new study revealed that a natural compound called luteolin could reduce the risk of breast cancer in women who have taken hormone replacement therapy.

“In most circumstances, hormone replacement therapies improve the lives of menopausal women and achieve excellent results,” said Salman Hyder, the Zalk Endowed Professor in Tumor Angiogenesis and professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center. “Nevertheless, research as proven that a higher incidence of breast cancer tumors can occur in women receiving therapies that involve a combination of the natural component estrogen and the synthetic progestin."

Researchers in Hyder’s lab found that as breast cancer cells develop, they take on stem cell-like qualities, which makes it more difficult to exterminate. Here, luteolin was used to monitor stem cell-like characteristics of breast cancer cells. The researchers saw a vast reduction in this phenomenon, further proving that the natural compound exerts its anti-tumor effects in a variety of ways.

“Most older women normally have benign lesions in breast tissue,” Hyder said. “These lesions typically don’t form tumors until they receiv the ‘trigger’ — in this case, progestin – that attracts blood vessels to cells essentially feeding the lesions causing them to expand.”

When observed in human breast cancer cells in the lab, luteolin has been proven to reduce those vessels “feeding” the cancer cells causing cancer cell death. Hyder performed further tests on laboratory mice with breast cancer and found that blood vessel formation and stem cell-like characteristics were also reduced in vivo.

“We feel that luteolin can be effective when injected directly into the bloodstream, so IV supplements may still be a possibility,” Hyder said. “But, until the supplement is tested for safety and commercialized, which we hope will happen after further testing and clinical trials, women should continue consuming a healthy diet with fresh fruits and vegetables.”