Chemopreventative Activity

Anticancer activity of lycopene has been demonstrated in cell and tissue culture studies and animal tumour models. Lycopene appears to inhibit human cancer cell growth by interfering with growth factor receptor signalling and cell cycle progression without producing toxicity or apoptosis (Heber & Lu 2002, Stahl et al 2000) In vitro and in vivo evidence supports the theory that antiproliferative activity is achieved by upregulation of a gene, connexin 43, which restores direct intercellular gap junctional communication, usually deficient in many human tumours. This restoration of normal intercellular gap junctional communication is associated with decreased proliferation. Investigation using animal models also suggests that lycopene may exert its chemopreventative effects by modulating lipid peroxidation and enhancing the activities of phase 2 enzymes, specifically those in the glutathione redox cycle (Bhuvaneswari et al 2001, Bhuvaneswari & Nagini 2005, Velmurugan et al 2002). A cell culture study using endometrial, mammary and lung human cancer cells has identified that lycopene has stronger antiproliferative activity than alpha- and beta-carotenes (Levy et al 1995).

Of special significance in prostate cancer prevention is the finding that lycopene interferes with local testosterone activation by reducing the expression of 5-alpha-reductase I in prostate tumours in a rat model (Siler et al 2004). As a consequence, several androgen target genes in the tumours were drastically downregulated.

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